I wrote previously about the horrific death of Kelly Thomas. The police ended this man’s life and did it brutally, acting more like predators than police. I hate to see such behavior as the actions of these cops only make it harder on the rest who are doing a tough job.
In Georgia a teen, Christopher Roupe, 17, of Euharlee, was shot answering his own front door. Why? The officer mistook the Wii controller in his hand for a pistol. Chris dreamed of joining the US Marine Corps. Chris had no record. The officer, Beth Gatny, broke down into tears, but the department is insisting that Christopher had a gun. If so, why the tears? Why is the police department trying to defend the indefensible? Obviously the officer at the door was in fear for her life before the door was opened. Why was she in this frame of mind?
A big part of the issue is the police have become highly fearful of the public they are supposed to be protecting. “A cop is killed every 58 hours.” OK. There are over 1 million police in our country. The life of each cop is worth preserving. Still two questions need to be answered, first “What caused the officer’s death?”, and, “Is the police response & threat posture relative to the threat reasonable?”
When it comes to fatalities an officer is in more danger when driving than he is interacting with the citizenry. 48 Officers died last year in traffic accidents; 33 were shot. This is the lowest number since the 1880’s. The issue then is police response and expectation of danger. The numbers demonstrate that the civilian populace is not gunning our police down.
The question is why are the police so fearful, and thereby trigger happy, given that statistically they are not in much greater danger than the rest of us, given the mortality rates? Policing is a tough job, but there are 14 jobs in the US more dangerous. The narrative that it is a jungle out there throughout the nation is false. We have far lower rates of crime than at any point in the past 50 years. Violent crime rates are DOWN more than 66% since 1973 according to GALLUP. When one considers that violent crime is focused in big cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Camden and Detroit – the attitude of the police and the public at large outside of these jurisdictions only becomes more perplexing.
The fear in the ranks of the police is real. The militarization of the police is real. The Us v. Them worldview is real. The three combined is a dangerous cocktail. Deescalation is in order. Frankly is is past due. Over 5000 people have been killed by the police since Sept 11, 1991. That is more than the number of soldiers that where killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is an alarming statistic.
The narrative that police are under siege is doing the public a disservice – last year over 400 people where kill by the police. This narrative is breeding police who are fearful and suspicious of the citizen living in their jurisdictions. The nation has to walk itself back from the path it has taken. The war on crime. The war on drugs. The war on gangs. Every crime fighting initiative is couched in a martial tone and the end result is a militarized police force, divorced from the community, and far too ready to use lethal force.
You’re Eight Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist.
Police training needs to shift its focus from SWAT tactics back to community policing. The number of SWAT teams in the US has grown exponentially. We simply do not need that many SWAT teams. The crime statistics do not demonstrate such a need. They need to take off the flak jackets both physical and mental. Police need to be retrained to de-escalate situations instead of taking SWAT’s military approach of subdue and defeat. The police should not be in a wartime frame of mind. They are peace officers, deputies, constables. They are not warriors or soldiers. Our law enforcement personnel work by and large in peaceful environments. Their policing and methods should reflect this.