The Ferguson Police Department officials are beginning to see the light, that changes are in cards. They are looking for easy solutions which will not compensate for having to get back to the basics of policing which is to protect and serve the communities whose residents are paying their salaries through taxation.
This starts with police getting to know those in the community by interacting in a positive way with them to figure out ways to reduce crime and to make these communities safer. THIS MEANS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY MEMBERS. This requires real effort and work to accomplish this.
Recent threats by their police union to have officers quit or not handle calls for help, if a bill is passed to create a civilian board to review complaints against those police officers abusing their power resulting in a preventable fatality or serious injury to a civilian is not constructive. These attempts at intimidation are counter to developing better relationships with the communities they are sworn to serve.
Looking for alternative non lethal weapons which can effectively constrain a suspect has value and it can be an additional law enforcement tool but it is not a substitute for police departments training their officers to use better judgment to diffuse conflict and to view the usage of a weapon as a last resort. As in the Michael Brown case, Officer Darren Wilson could have been trained to simply take a picture of him, and to let him flee without pursuing him on foot. He could have followed him by driving his SUV while waiting for back up. Michael Brown when he was fleeing was not a danger to the officer or others. Frankly, it is difficult to conceal a weapon when someone is wearing khaki shorts and a T-shirt. If Officer Wilson had not been allowed to refuse to carry his Taser gun, this would have been a non lethal weapon that he could have used which is extremely effective if a suspect is within a distance of fifteen feet. What this police department needs to do is face the fact that they have a hard job ahead of them which involves training officers to improve their judgment in dealing with various scenarios; intensive classes designed to have officers deal in a positive way with peoples of diverse cultures and backgrounds; and to instill the concept that resorting to the usage of any weapon should the last choice if there is any alternative way to resolve a situation without it. Most importantly, they need to develop a constructive relationship with leaders and others from the community that they are supposed to be helping.
Michael Walsh in his 2/4/15 article for Yahoo News, “Ferguson police testing ‘less lethal’ gun attachment; critics fear ‘moral hazard,’ safety,” writes about Ferguson’s police latest idea to prevent future preventable deaths of an unarmed individual by police. Here are some excerpts from his post:
“Ferguson police are testing new methods of incapacitating suspects — six months after a highly controversial police shooting involving one of their officers.
This week, five instructors for the Missouri city’s police department are training to use a “less lethal” device, called the Alternative, which has enough force to knock a suspect to the ground but not kill him or her.
The Alternative is a small orange device that attaches to the top of a normal handgun and extends a Ping-Pong-ball-sized projectile in front of the muzzle.
After traveling through the barrel, the bullet embeds itself inside the alloy projectile, and the docking unit immediately detaches from the weapon, according to the manufacturer.
This process decreases the bullet’s velocity and dampens its impact. The bullet, then, should not pierce a human’s skin and cause the type of internal damage that would kill the person. However, it retains enough blunt force to knock someone over and deliver severe, debilitating pain.
Christian Ellis, founder and CEO of Alternative Ballistics, says Ferguson police reached out to him after an extensive Google search.
“After the Michael Brown shooting, they were very concerned about taking lives and making sure that they are proactive,” he said in an interview with Yahoo News. “These guys are taking it very seriously. They really like the technology, and I think they are doing the right thing by giving their officers more tools so they can deal with deadly force encounters in different ways.”
“I think they’ll use this device when it’s safe and prudent to use it,” Herrmann said. “It’s designed to be used in a situation where lethal force is justified but may not be the best solution.”
The same Ferguson Police Department is also now in the planning stages of training officers on how to tactically retreat without force in certain instances. The newspaper, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on this subject on 1/30/15. Here are some excerpts from the article by Christine Byers:
“Like many officers involved in deadly force encounters, Darren Wilson said his training took over when he shot Michael Brown in Ferguson.
But what if Wilson had been trained differently?
The national upheaval from Brown’s death, and some others, has put enormous pressure on law enforcement to find ways to control people’s behavior while using less violence. One possibility — simple but repugnant to some officers — is to teach police to back away from certain difficult situations until help can arrive.
The concept is known as “tactical retreat” or sometimes “tactical withdrawal” or “tactical restraint.”
Had Wilson been coached in tactical retreat, Stoughton said, he instead might have stepped on the gas to drive away from the encounter, and kept Brown in sight while waiting for backup.
Wilson “could have been trained to do something different to allow him to apprehend Michael Brown without putting himself in a situation that made him feel deadly force was the only safe response,” Stoughton explained. “Train police officers to avoid putting themselves in danger, and you will see them use less force to get themselves out of danger.
“That’s good for everybody.”
UPDATE 3/4/15: I have footnoted a link below regarding the DOJ investigative report about Ferguson PD practices.