We Need to Reign In Deadly Force…

There has been some interesting news lately regarding the rash of police shootings of citizens that plagued our country in 2015.

  1. In a study of Chicago police and a wider policing, many of the police who have killed people recently have a history of abusing their power.  That means that fewer police are actually involved in the shootings we saw last year.
  2. Today, the Huffington Post noted that none of the fifty states have laws regarding when deadly force is appropriate/ is not appropriate.

I have struggled with what to do re: racism and police treatment of Blacks in this country which became so much an issue last year. There are so many forms of racism to deal with that it was difficult to know where to start, and how to make any strides against it — specifically how to change people’s hearts and minds and treat each other decently.

At the same time, there were so many mass shootings last year, it appeared that the world had gone off the deep end. While, as a pacifist, I’m not a big fan of guns or killing in general, I can understand people’s need to feel safe and the world felt very unsafe last year.

It is bad enough to feel unsafe and out-of-control, but to be made to feel unsafe and out-of-control by the very people who are supposed to keep you safe and society in control is beyond my comprehension. I see every day what happens, and its lingering effects, when I see clients who were or are abused by their parents, who are supposed to protect them.  What must it be like to be a victim of a crime and not be willing to call the police, because they’ll abuse you as well? This is the plight, apparently, of African Americans who already don’t trust the police (e.g. “driving while Black”, laws written with minorities in mind for more persecution (ever wonder why powdered cocaine had one penalty and rock cocaine had another?)).

How can we love each other, care for each other, see each other as Americans if we have two sets of standards and two sets of laws or two very different applications of the law? And how do we define morality — good and bad — when the good guys do bad things and get away with it?  We expect the bad guys to do evil things. When the good guys do evil things, what does “good” even mean?  None of us feel safe in a society like that.  If we equate “good” with being violent — via guns, choke holds, tasers, intentionally had driving — we had them all from police last year — then the more violent we are, the more “good” we claim?

The problem isn’t that bad cops are the norm. They aren’t. The problem is that cops are — by definition — supposed to be the good guys. When they aren’t, it’s a larger drop in our confidence, a larger drop from what we expect. In short, it messes with our heads and our sense of order in the universe.

If there’s anything that last year taught us, it’s that between corrupt Grand Juries, rebel police who shoot innocent victims in the back, Chicago’s “black ops” station, and ridiculously strong police unions, it’s almost impossible to convict a bad/killer police officer.

Society needs to make a statement that no one is above the law, that the law applies to everyone, that violence is a bad idea. For states or the Federal government to create laws about when “deadly” violence  might be appropriate — and therefore isn’t appropriate, is to make all of those claims, and to restore some portion of justice to America’s racial problems.

This is something we can and should do.












6 thoughts on “We Need to Reign In Deadly Force…

  1. Again, I think you are operating from a false premise that cops first instinct is to shoot first, ask questions later. Since we were not there for these situations, it’s difficult to pass full judgment. We live in a country of roughly 330 million people. A quick google search says we have around 765,000 police offices. Given those numbers, these incidents are exceedingly rare given how much interaction police have with the population. Also take into account that many of these incidents are demonstrably justifiable…the whole kickoff to Black Lives Matter was based on Ferguson, which now that all evidence is out, was clearly justifiable. Other cases are more murky, but even with the amount of publicity these get, there are very few of them considering a population of this size.

    I have been close to, whether by family or friendship, around 15-20 cops in my life. I have been on 2 ride-alongs. On one of the ride-alongs, we went to a domestic. I wasn’t allowed out of the car for safeties sake, but I could see the action from inside. Police deal with these cases all the time and they are highly dangerous. We also never take into account the crime rate in the neighborhoods, instead we jump to race. If a cop in Lynnfield came upon a black kid on the playground with what looked like a gun, he may be afforded a greater ability to assess the situation, but if that same situation were to be turned around and it was a kid in Roxbury (or parts of any major city where crime is high), he is more likely to act quickly if the gun in any way is touched, whether the kid is white or black. The question needs to be asked, not only what race were the suspects (or in some cases victims), but where did it take place and was there a motivating factor as to why the officer may have acted in such a manner. We always jump to race rather than looking at the larger picture.

    I’ll be the first to say that any cop who is acting outside of the law or is “trigger happy” should be prosecuted. I the case where the cop shot the fleeing black suspect in the back, I was more than pleased with the indictment. But the media has ginned the population up against cops, and that is bad for everyone, but especially bad for those in poor neighborhoods where crime is high and police are needed. Police have indicated that they are less likely to engage in these communities, and there will be a high price to pay for that inaction over time.

  2. Great response, Sean. We agree on so many things you said, and I think most Americans as well. That’s what makes it a no-brainer for me.

    Where I think you misunderstand ME is that I think guns-a-blazing police are normal. I don’t. But our culture is creating that behavior by letting bad cops get away with it. The fact that there were no laws about it made no sense to me.

    Also, I have known lots of cops — some in my family, others as clients, others as victims of police . In situations I have been in/near police were waaayyyy too quick to violence when they didn’t have to be. I suspect many of them have PTSD and are not responsible for their behavior, but if you know you have it, you can’t do your job , so there should be a better way to deal with it. People are still dead, even if I feel sorry for the officer.

    Besides all that, I suspect that Black folks see. a lot more of this than either of us know , simply because of their color of their skin. To that extent, I don’t know if there’s a recent increase in shootings of Blacks or just a change in coverage of it. In any case, it can’t go on. Our government can and should do something about it.

  3. I do suspect, and statistics would support that Blacks see this sort of thing more often, and that needs to change. We may disagree on how that needs to change, but we agree on that.

    But, interestingly, in the last 8 years we are so focused on racial divides, we are ignoring the larger issues. Black on Black violence is FAR greater in number (I mean it dwarfs it) than white on black crime. I am not talking about arrests, we are talking actual violence. The FBI statistics show that it would take 40 years for cops to kill as many Blacks as were killed by other Blacks in 2012 alone.

    The challenge with liberalism is that liberals tend to make excuses rather than address the uncomfortable issues. To me, that is the racism of low expectations. I actually view Blacks as fully equal. I don’t love or hate them unless I know them and then I judge them based on who they are as a person. That was MLK’s dream, not coddling someone based on the color of their skin and ignoring statistics like these ones on violence that have nothing to do with white vs black.

    Per the DOJ, “…during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. This is in spite of Blacks being a greatly lower percentage of the population.

    If we are going to have these discussions (not just you and I, but overall), we need to have them with ALL the facts including those that don’t support the narrative.

    There are some cops out there that need to be fired/prosecuted. The funny thing is you keep saying there are no laws on the books for this…of course there are. Police are subject to the same laws they enforce. These cops that do get away with it (rarely) do so in the same way that criminals do…they don’t get caught or they get off on a technicality, but that doesn’t mean the law isn’t there.

    The problem is that the media is essentially tearing down the whole institution to get at a few bad apples. The same thing has happened to priests. Less than 1% of catholic priests are pedophiles, but you wouldn’t know that to look at how the catholic church is viewed in media. This is not just in the news. If you see a priest on TV nowadays, 9 out of 10 times they are either portrayed as hypocrites or perpetrators. This sort of thing does have an impact on society, and it’s not for the better in the long run.

    1. Sean: Thanks again for the conversation. It is an important one to be having.

      It is seldom that I see logical bias in your writings, but here is one that I MUST point out. I know that the Black community has used it as well, but I think that they bought into the read their own blame. “Black on Black” violence is a category … why? While your FBI statistics are important to the discussion, they also are biased. I read them twice and I don’t see “White on White” crime. It is known and pointed out in the Black community that while your average crime might be committed by anyone, TRUE psychos — Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, the list goes on… are all White. Why don’t we focus on THAT? The questions are biased or pointless.

      Regarding “there are no laws there”: I got that from a Huffington Post article. Yes, there are laws against murder, and assault, but authorities are not often held to them. Specifically, I am talking about laws where “deadly force” is used. As a parent, I am aware Tamir Rice is not coming back in this lifetime. Certainly that must be a crime. Why is no one being tried for it? Because of the way deadly force was used — and it was police using it — no one can say it was murder. So let’s try to define when it’s use is appropriate or not.

      As a member of the clergy, I agree that portrayal of priests only as pedophiles is not particularly helpful and it paints all clergy with a wide brush. I didn’t like Nickolodeon for portraying all parents as stupid either for years. But re: clergy. we did it to ourselves. The UCC and, I’m sure. the Catholic Church now have policies to avoid such problems. I think we’re safer now than we’ve ever been,as I think Catholics probably are. We had a crisis of authority. Even the Pope admitted that.

      We dealt with it. We moved on. I am asking police to do the same.



  4. I always appreciate our debates (especially given some of the debates I see on my wall)…check out the fight going on just because I posted a negative article about Trump :). As you are reading my replies I hope you see them as a counter argument. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to realize there are areas where we actually agree, and we are both looking out for the best, we just see it sometimes from different perspectives.

    The FBI keeps statistics on white on white, black on black, white on black, black on white and all the variations. There is no question that whites tend to murder whites and blacks murder blacks. That is to be expected since most murders take place with people who were in some way connected to the other person, and while there (especially nowadays) is more of blend, we also still have many separated communities. The statistics that stick out are that we tend to do this to the same race. When it IS inter-racial, it is lopsided. You also have to factor in the numbers. If you don’t look at percentage and only look at the numbers, whites (based on their numbers) are going to commit more crime since there are many more.

    As to Dahmer etc…it is well established that serial killers are in the vast majority of cases white males. The FBI has a whole different set of criteria and investigation for these cases.

    I noted that in some cases police get away with it, but those numbers are very small John. You now have police stating that they don’t want to engage in certain communities because it’s not worth the possible loss of career, livelihood. This means that good cops are now starting to decide it’s not worth it. I can’t blame them. Michael Brown was the hero of the story and still is in too many places. That is still hauled out as an example even though the Justice Department under Obama cleared him of wrong doing based on the actual evidence. Some of the most public ones are proven to be wrong, but they are still used as evidence. Eric Garner in New York with the choke hold. No gun involved, the coroner says that the cause of death was caused by his general health exacerbated by the incident. There’s no way that cop knew that this would be the outcome. The mayors policy to roust these guys was questionable, but once the police were there, he resisted arrest…it had nothing to do with the original infraction which would have resulted in a fine…it was resisting the officers that caused the situation. But that is still held up as an example even though he resisted arrest, and there was no fire arm involved. The cop wasn’t seeking to kill him, he was seeking to restrain him.

    Here’s what I am saying…it’s the unintended consequences that are the problem. I get that you and others are looking to do good, but what is happening is cops are saying they just won’t engage…they will let it go in some cases…which allows crime to flourish and that’s when innocent people really start to be hurt. The good residents of color in these communities are the victims when police step back.

    1. Sean: Again, good discussion. Let me see if I can name what we agree on: The facts you have listed above, the idea that racism exists and is wrong. The idea that there is crime and it is wrong. The idea that there ought to be equal justice for all. Not having police is bad. Having bad police is bad. People need to hold themselves accountable for their actions. How’s that? It’s very cool if that’s the case. I’ll leave the discussion for now, but the work goes on.



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