Deputy Police Chief Theodore Carr was a happy man as last week ended, and that is newsworthy.
Police officials do not tend to be jolly, happy-go-lucky fellows. Too much can go wrong in an ordinary working day. Too much does go wrong.
A decision made in a split second can cost somebody his life. A formal investigation, conducted at leisure at some later date and aided by the 20-20 vision of hindsight, can conclude that the policeman involved need "poor judgment."
Let me illustrate how this works out in the real world policemen inhabit.
At 3:10 one afternoon last week, Officers Leonard M. Chappell and Lamont Allen were driving down Benning Road toward Sixth District Headquarters, which is in the 4100 block. They were coming off duty after hours of work on a double murder case.
Chappell is 21years old. He's been a policeman for all of eight months. Allen is an aged veteran by comparison. He's 23 and has been wearing the blue for seven years. Both men were weary and beginning to "wind down" after a trying day's work.
But in the 4800 block of Benning Road they both came alive with a jolt. There was an auto on the sidewalk. A few feet away, a man was holding a shotgun to another man's head and appeared ready to pull the trigger.
To protect his own life or that of another person, a policeman is authorized to draw his weapon and to shoot, if necessary.
Good term, that "if necessary."
Its exact meaning can be defined by lawyers, weeks or months after the cop on the scene needs an instantaneous definition.
Allen, behind the wheel, brought Scout 41 to an abrupt halt alongside the car on the sidewalk. Rookie Chappell was out of the passenger side even before the scout car had stopped, and as he moved in on the man with the shotgun, the go-or-no-go choice whirred through his head. Should he shoot first to save the victim? If he called out to the gunman, would the shotgun be fired at him instead?
The rookie kept his cool. "Police!" he shouted. "Drop it." The man with the shotgun turned quickly, and the next five seconds were an hour long. Then the man with the shotgun slowly lowered it and let it fall to the ground.
Allen meanwhile, had found four other men inside the car on the sidewalk. The driver had a revolver stuck in his belt. Another occupant was armed with an automatic rifle.
As Allen was reaching in to grab the driver's gun, Officer William T. Norman, who had been passing in a patrol wagon and had rushed in to lend a hand, was disarming the passenger on the other side of the car.
All of this took place in broad daylight, mind you, with a crowd of 200 gathering in a twinkling and adding to the need for deft police work.
Until help arrived and the five suspects were taken off to Sixth District Headquarters, there was always the grave danger that a sudden move might cause somebody to shoot, and then all kinds of unhappy events would have followed.
So, as commander of the Sixth District, Deputy Chief Carr was a reasonably happy man over the weekend. He told our senior police reporter, Alfred E. Lewis, "Whenever there is a confrontation of this kind, there is the very real danger that somebody will fire a shot, and when that happens there can be many shots, and people end up dead. This time everything went off beautifully. This was an example of good police work - a very level-headed response to a crisis situation - and I'm very proud of these men. It looks like a beautiful weekend."
In addition to everything else, Chief Carr turned out to be a good weather forecaster. It was a beautiful weekend, even for old grouches like policemen and reporters.