No day with shooting is ever a good one, but in the Land of the Gun, it’s just another day—another officer involved shooting. Today, it’s the turn of Dallas. Except this time the tables are turned. This time, it’s the turn of the police to be gunned down without so much as a “By your leave.”
No police officer ever deserves to be killed in the line of duty. I can say that. But if you’re black, or have been brutalized by law enforcement, then there’s a chance you may feel differently; perhaps today was the day the police got a “taste of their own medicine.”
There are no winners here.
So what should we do about it? Pray. Yes, let’s do that. It’s easy – and it’s free. We don’t want to dissect the problem. Problem is, I’m a dissector. And since everyone else is busy praying, I’m going to pull out my scalpel. Here are some rough cuts. Cuts that other commentators will be making in a few days (because “now is not the time”).
To the extent that the police are seen as “the enemy,” they may be complicit in the problem. There are a several for this:
- The Compliance problem: There is a massive emphasis on “compliance” in this country. Any member of the public that immediately fails to comply with an officer’s instruction, however unreasonable, is in danger of a massive over-reaction. Compliance is antithetical to reaching solutions that avoid violence. Compliance should never take precedence over de-escalation.
- Lack of restraint: Police officers routinely fail to de-escalate and control situations that are controllable. By and large, these are not complex situations and any good parent with a teenage son could set a better example of phasedown. Because of their over emphasis on compliance, many police officers struggle to stay cool under duress. They have a tendency to over-react, often wildly.” We see this time and again on captured video footage. When two bullets will do the job, the police will launch a hail of two hundred. Not cool.
- Siege Mentality: The concept of “officer safety” while important can lead to a siege mentality, or a situation of “us and them.” More insidiously, officer safety is often deliberately stretched to the limits and used an excuse for uncontrolled aggression.
- Hyper Macho culture: Authoritarian personality types favors a tendency to posture under fire. They become overbearing and not seek mutually satisfactory solutions. So long as there is an unwritten rule of “Do as I tell you right now, or you’re going to jail,” police conflict with the community will continue.
- Might is right: If the police are truly there to “protect and serve” then they must mitigate their tendency to rule by force—or just to be rude and overbearing. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been the subject of a routine traffic stop and found the officer to be lacking in social skills. This is where the trust and support of the public is won, or lost. Instead of opening with “License and registration,” how about “Good morning, do you know why I’ve stopped you?” There are many ways to skin a cat.
The good news in all of this? These are problems that can be fixed. At least in theory.
And now we return to scheduled programming:
Let us pray.