When someone becomes a police officer, they are trained for every possible situation. They are trained on how to deal with mentally ill people. They are given classes on how to avoid racial bias and profiling. They even have to repeat those classes every five years. (Source) They know how to use their firearms, when to use their firearms, and when not to use their firearms. Or, at least, they should.
There are cases where lethal force is the only option. If someone is waving a gun around and presents a serious threat to police or civilians, innocents obviously take precedence over the person threatening them. However, there are protocols in doing so. The Use Of Force Continuum is an escalating series of actions an officer may take to resolve a conflict. Each department’s UFC varies slightly, but the basic steps go like this:
Officer Presence–No force is used. Considered the best way to resolve a situation. (“Is everything all right, gentlemen?”) Verbalization–Non-physical force is used. (“DROP THE GUN!”) Empty-Hand Control– Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation. (Grabs, holds, punches, and kicks.) Less-Lethal Methods–Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation. (Tasers, batons, and pepper spray.) Lethal Force–Officers use lethal weapons to gain control of a situation. Should only be used if a suspect poses a serious threat to the officer or another individual.
Tamir Rice should not have happened. Michael Brown should not have happened. Eric Garner should not have happened. Kathryn Johnston, Yvette Smith, Bernard Bailey, Jordan Davis, none of it should have happened.
Here are the facts: Tamir Rice was twelve. He was playing with an AirSoft gun in a public park, waving it around, pointing it at passerby. Someone got alarmed, called the police. “It’s probably fake, but it’s scaring the [expletive] out of me. He’s pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people. He’s probably a juvenile.” Police officer Timothy Loehmann pulled up in his car. Less than five seconds later, Tamir was dead. The dispatcher did not mention that the gun might be fake. Loehmann was never even sent to trial. Draw your own conclusions, but I believe that this is wrong.
Bernard Bailey was fifty-four. He went to the Town Hall of a tiny little town in South Carolina to argue about his daughter’s broken taillight ticket. Police chief Richard Combs attempted to arrest him for obstruction of justice. Bailey went back outside to his truck, and Combs followed him, attempting to enter the vehicle. There was a brief struggle, and then Combs shot Bailey twice in the chest. Over a ticket. I’m not sure what conclusions there are to draw. There is no excusing this.
Michael Brown was seventeen. We don’t know what happened, not for sure. Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted, which means there was not enough evidence to send him to trial. He did not get off scot-free. The FBI is investigating the case right now. What we do know is that the case sparked the Ferguson riots.
After the non-indictment verdict, Michael Brown’s mother, standing on top of a car, started to cry, and his stepfather shouted “Burn this [expletive] down!” The crowd around him obeyed. 20 businesses were set on fire, and 12 of them burned to the ground. Other businesses were looted, and 12 vehicles were torched. None of the businesses looted and burned were large chain businesses. They were all owned by locals, many of them black. Police officers were attacked, having things thrown at them, including what appeared to be smoke bombs, flares, and frozen water bottles, and cop cars were torched.
Maybe the rioters were acting in a spirit of righteous anger. I don’t think so. Righteous anger doesn’t spark looting and theft, or the destruction of your friends’ and neighbours’ businesses. An inclination for chaos does. Or an inclination for free stuff. #StandUpWalkOut is an acceptable form of protest. The Ferguson riots are not.
Admittedly, so far no one has died. That doesn’t make it okay.
I’m not looking for the guilty cops to get off. Any of them. I’m not looking for them to die, or be stolen from, or even to go to prison for life. I want public trials so that these cops can be treated like anyone else who kills an unarmed person, and at the rate things are going, we’re going to get one. These people will still be dead, but the cops will receive justice.
These police officers need to be treated like people, and not cops. With the same emotions as anyone else, the same mistakes, the same laws. These people do not represent the police force. Don’t let them.