How The Police Must Change

We live in a new kind of police state, one in which no person can be sure he will survive when the police show up. 

We have seen: cops painfully twisting the arm of a small unarmed and unthreatening man in his seventies; kicking the face of a man on the ground in restraints; shooting an unarmed elderly man after being asked to check up on him; death by fusillade of numerous unarmed black men and women; beating of children and women; pepper spray of handcuffed people; suffocation death of arrested men; numerous deaths of men at police headquarters or in a vehicle; death when a man who was supposed to be taken to hospital was taken to police headquarters and beaten; death because medicine was denied; death because medical care was denied; beatings of mentally ill people; beatings of blind people; a woman in handcuffs and leg restraints kicked to death…

Lest we think these things apply only to blacks, there are more white people than black people killed by the police. Nobody gets a pass.

We live in a new kind of police state.
No person can be sure he will survive
when the police show up.

The standard police protocol is to kill, which police spokespersons say is a reasonable response. I do not agree at all. The record in the US is radically worse than other advanced countries. Deaths at the hands of US cops number in the hundreds, while deaths in other countries are zero or single digits over the same period. The fact is, US police react with fatal gunfire under all kinds of circumstances that would not draw the same reaction in other countries. This policy must change.

We have witnessed several more enlightened responses from the police of other nations. In one, a German man who was waving a knife around and threatening people was shot in the thigh at close range, and taken into custody by a single officer without further difficulty. Numerous identical situations in the US have resulted in shooting death as the first response.

I do not agree
with the standard police response
to kill.

Off-duty unarmed police visiting from overseas responded to a call on a subway. They subdued a man and put him on the floor. Rather than putting their full body pressure on his back, they asked him if he could breathe OK. He said yes. An arrest was made when local police arrived. Several similar cases resulting in suffocation death from US cops have become infamous.

My belief is that both training and police protocol in the US are badly out of step with the requirements of a just democracy. We all agree, the cops gotta change. Here’s some ideas how.

Police must be able to maintain control over their emotions under all circumstances. An officer must never react with anger, even under extreme provocation, even if injured by a suspect. Professionalism is bringing a subject under control without reacting emotionally. To do so is to take on that person’s problems as your own, and easily leads to abuse. Extreme physicality may at times be called for, with any of various techniques for subduing a person, but anger never improves such techniques, any more than it would when lifting a barbell. When physicality is necessary, an officer should be cool and calculating about how best to deal with a suspect. Simply lashing out and injuring or killing is a clear sign of insufficient training and control.

My belief is that both training and protocol
are badly out of step with the
requirements of a just democracy.

If several police officers address a criminal suspect who is not showing a weapon, only one person should have a weapon aimed at the suspect. That weapon should be an automatic rifle whenever possible, which is much more accurate than a pistol, both for a single shot and multiple shots. That officer should not be within reaching distance of the suspect, but should maintain a clear line of sight. All officers should have weapons ready to be drawn, but holstered. The first sign of danger should draw rapid fire from this single officer, preferably to the thigh. If there is not an immediate halt to the suspect’s threat, or if he shows a gun, multiple shots with intent to kill should be used.

All officers should be well trained in martial arts techniques, with frequent practice, re-training, and review. Officers should be in peak physical condition, even older officers.

Police must be able to maintain control
over their emotions under all circumstances.
Shouting is frequently counterproductive.
Deadly force is rarely necessary.

Cursing or inflammatory language must never be used, particularly racist language. The officer must always understand that he is dealing with people who are under stress, and not behaving as they might normally. Reacting with swearing or racist language will always make it worse, whereas normal speaking may defuse the situation and calm the people involved.

Loud shouting at a suspect is usually a bad idea because it is quite often difficult or impossible to understand, especially when repeated rapidly. Shouting at a suspect, particularly by a number of officers, may simply confuse him. For example, a man with a knife who seems distracted will be more likely to put the knife down and surrender if he is talked to calmly by one person, whereas several people shouting at him will seem like nothing but noise. Shooting to kill after several shouted warnings is a policy guaranteed to result in death.

The crux of the matter is this: our police are out of control. Training in control of emotions and revision of faulty policies that cause unnecessary pain and deaths are essential, immediately. There are doubtless many more possible ways that police training and policy can be fixed than the ones I mention here.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on Nevada State Personnel Watch.


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