I am so saddened by the deaths of the two Brooklyn Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by the heinous actions of a sick individual who also shot his girlfriend. Our heartfelt prayers go out to these heroes’ families and their loved ones.
Still let us not forget that there are many who are also grieving over the recent deaths of those in minority communities including Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown by police officers. Many good, decent folks believe these deaths were preventable. The families, loved ones and others have been suffering too from the tremendous loss of their family members. Their protests are part of their mourning process.
It is an American treasured right to be able to peacefully protest. Unfortunately, there are a few criminals who take advantage of those who are genuinely intent in participating in a peaceful protest by deciding to vandalize, loot and destroy property. This is why most well intentioned protestors value the help from police officers to protect their cherished right to gather together in protest from being tainted by this criminal element. The vast majority of those protesting do not condone any violent activities nor do they excuse the mistreatment or signs of disrespect towards those officers simply doing their jobs.
The public is well aware that a few rogue officers who abuse their position of power are not reflective of most law enforcement personnel. However, there has to be a way to hold those reprobate officers accountable in order to protect innocent civilians as well as continuing to maintain the community’s trust in the competency and professionalism of their police departments.
Of course, it would be helpful to determine how often Black men are fatally harmed by police by the collection of data. When I began to do research on this subject, I was surprised to learn that most cities and states do not collect and document this data. There is a Utah newspaper which has been compiling this type of data for their state for several years. As per a New Republic article, titled, “More People in Utah Are Killed by Police Than Die in Gang or Drug Violence” by Ben Mathis-Lilley on 11/24/2014. He reports the following: “A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahans kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence. Between 2010 and October of this year, the Tribune found, 45 people were killed by law enforcement officers in Utah. Officer-involved killings ranked as the second-deadliest category of homicide, trailing deaths perpetrated by spouses or partners but ahead of gang killings, drug killings, and deaths resulting from child abuse. Only one of the police-involved killings—the shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an undercover drug operation in 2012—led to a prosecution, but a judge threw out charges against the officer involved in October.” Fortunately, I recently watched Eric Holder being interviewed by Joy-Ann Reid when he voiced similar sentiments.
Some of us believe that by encouraging a genuinely constructive dialog between the minority communities and the police by which real police reforms are established, that eventually both our police and our minority brothers will experience fewer fatalities. fewer serious injuries and fewer police officers having their lives ruined. Both could work towards the common goal of reducing crime in their communities.
This is why I was so horrified by self serving, politically motivated police union leaders who directed the Brooklyn, NY police officers who were suffering over their losses of fellow members, to uniformly turn their backs on their Mayor Bill deBlasio and their Police Commissioner William J. Bratton on December 20, 2014. There were Union led words issued along the lines that Mayor deBlasio has blood on his hands. Then there are some national republican leaders who are using this tragedy to gain political advantage towards a democrat, Mayor deBlasio.
The NY Times article posted on 12/21/14 by Matt Flegenheimer states:
“The reaction encapsulated weeks of escalating tensions. Even before the shooting, union leaders had circulated a letter allowing officers to request that the mayor not attend their funerals in the event of their death in the line of duty.”
“Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former police captain, said, “We need to use the pain that all of us are experiencing and turn it into purpose.” He added that “calling for reform is not a call for harm of police officers.”
“While the mayor remained largely out of view on Sunday, his predicament attracted a national audience. Current and former Republican lawmakers, including George E. Pataki, a former governor of New York, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, suggested Mr. deBlasio, a Democrat, had set a troubling tone and contributed to a dangerous climate for officers.”
I worry that the culture of many police departments are so entrenched in maintaining the status quo, that they are not at all receptive to the concept that they could benefit from well thought out reforms to lessen the loss of lives of both their coworkers and the people they are sworn to serve; and that it is not possible for anyone to challenge police actions under any circumstances without being accused of being anti police.
I have become concerned that too many police departments focus solely on training their professionals on how to shoot with a gun while stressing the point that any incident could evolve to where a police officer is fatally shot. While this training is necessary and well intentioned because we care about the well being of the police professionals who are placing their lives on the line to protect others, this goal needs to be tempered by training officers about diverse populations and about how to communicate more effectively to diffuse tense situations. If police acquired this added expertise, it could save more police lives. In addition, there should be some focus on the usage of alternate instruments to constrain a suspect other than the first resource being a gun. For example, if we use a dart gun with a tranquilizer to slow down an animal which results in a non fatality, why can’t we consider this alternative in a police setting. Many police officers do have access to mace and Taser guns, which can totally incapacitate an attacker from a distance of about 15 feet. In conclusion, more sophisticated training would not only protect civilians from harm but would save the lives of more police officers.
There is a 2008 article regarding this subject of current police culture titled, “Obsolescence: The Police Firearms Training Dilemma,” by Thomas J. Aveni. The Police Policy Studies Council reports the following:
“In an era largely defined by rapid technological advances, the law enforcement community has embraced many useful advances, such as dashboard cameras, MDTs and Tasers. Cutting-edge LED flashlights are rapidly replacing those with incandescent bulb technology. We’ve seen GPS technology being integrated into sophisticated crime mapping software and hardware. We’ve also witnessed officers transitioning from revolvers to some of the newest generation pistol designs, and we’ve seen shotguns largely being supplanted by AR15 rifles, many equipped with Rail Interface Systems and electronic sights. But, when it comes to the way in which we train police officers to assure their own survival, and the survival of others, we’ve clung to old, problematic paradigms. Obsolescence is usually self-evident within the technological realm, and it should be equally as obvious in the police training realm. If what we’re training officers to do isn’t remediating persistent problems associated with decision-making skills, we, as police trainers, have become part of the problem.”
He continues by explaining how this prevailing police culture has developed over time as per the following commentary:
“Police training, especially police firearms training, has witnessed an enormous amount of commercialization over the last two decades. Where there was once a mere handful of police firearms training entities (i.e., the NRALEAD, Gunsite, S&W Academy, etc.), there are now literally hundreds of commercial training establishments, both regional and national. They’re all competing for slices of a pie (police training budgets) that hasn’t gotten much bigger over the last two decades. So, in an attempt to distinguish themselves from the pack, competing training companies feel compelled to “out-SWAT” each other. How often do you see police training marketed with imagery of trainees in black BDUs, Kevlar helmets and bloused combat boots? Or, perhaps more tellingly, how often don’t you see police training marketed with a SWAT motif?”
“Beyond the marketing imagery lies the real problem. We know, from even a casual perusal of annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) publications, that we’re losing officers to similar mistakes that we’ve always lost officers to. Much of that has to do with the basic nature of policing, which doesn’t change much. We’re duty-bound to take some risks and place ourselves in some predicaments that we’ve rather not be in. But, when we look critically at what we see the vast majority of commercial trainers impressing upon officers, we’re likely to see aggressive, proactive techniques geared heavily toward active-shooter scenarios. This should come as no surprise, since many of the most influential commercial trainers have DOD backgrounds – and little if any legitimate police experience.”
Many well known entities profiled in recent newspaper headlines have had to face major cultural changes, including GM, the Veterans Administration, and the prestigious Secret Service in response to outside demands for performance improvements. Why do police organizations supported by taxpayer monies believe that their organizations are immune from similar outside demands?
The one essential, cultural adjustment that all organizations including law enforcement, appear to require is a structural, safe way for their personnel to be able to inform management about ethical, problematic systemic practices and job performance concerns that may need to be confronted.
I am convinced that appropriate police cultural reforms would ultimately reduce the number of serious injuries and the loss of lives of both the police professionals and minority members of the community as well as reducing crime by improved professional policing.
2 N.Y.P.D. Officers Killed in Brooklyn Ambush; Suspect … www.nytimes.com/…/two-police–officers–shot-in-their…The New York Times
Benjamin Watson Reflects on Ferguson in Viral Facebook Post NBCNews.com – 11/27/2014
The Police Policy Studies Council – Police Deadly Force …http://www.theppsc.org/Aveni: Obsolescence: The Police Firearms Training Dilemma. Aveni: Death … Aveni: The RAND Study of NYPD Training Practices; A Missed Opportunity?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 12/21/2014 time.com/author/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.
The CIA & NYPD: Perilous Insubordination In Our Democracy Esquire – 12/22/2014, by Charles P. Pierce