After Deadly Disputes, Policing Can Never Be The Same

by Diane Dimond on December 15, 2014

Law Enforcement on Notice

Law Enforcement on Notice

 Note to Sheriffs and Police Chiefs: If you aren’t actively seeking ideas to foster better relations between your community and your officers you probably should resign.

If you are still operating under the illusion that social unrest could never come to your town you better think again.

If you don’t realize that a new day has dawned in law enforcement – a day where a growing number of citizens automatically mistrust cops – you might want to get back out on the street and walk a beat for a day or two.

There is now a nationwide, colorblind call demanding a change in the way law enforcement interacts with the people they have sworn to protect.

There is no turning back now. The bad apples in the policing barrel have spoiled it for the rest of you.

12- year-old Tamir Rice Shot Dead With Toy Gun

12- year-old Tamir Rice Shot Dead With Toy Gun

Most recently, the cop in Cleveland who gave a 12-year-old black child — who was unfortunately playing with a realistic looking toy gun — just a few seconds to live before pulling his gun and shooting him dead. Other officers reportedly then restrained his mother telling her to “calm down” and tackled, handcuffed and tossed his 14-year-old sister in the back of a squad car.

There was, of course, the headline grabbing Ferguson, Missouri shooting of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in August. Before that, in July, the much publicized death of an unarmed black man named Eric Garner who was selling single cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island, New York.  In March, Albuquerque police shot and killed a homeless white man following a three hour standoff over his illegal camping.

Each of these cases has a back-story, of course, but the cold hard fact is that there have been too many recent cases involving the use of questionable deadly force by police. Their seemingly callous actions after the fact only add to the growing anti-law enforcement feeling.

Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter

Across the country people of all colors are asking: “Isn’t there a more humane way for peace officers to respond to tense situations? Can’t police be trained to diffuse disputes in a way that does not include fatal gunfire? Why are so many unarmed citizens losing their lives?”

I’m wondering if it really is all about race or might it have something to do with the poverty and sense of hopelessness that traps so many minority Americans in gang infested neighborhoods. Have those consumed with surviving the desperation simply forgotten to teach their children to respect law enforcement, to acquiesce when an officer tells you to stop an illegal action?

Why did young Brown decide to confront Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the street that day? Why hadn’t Garner stopped illegally selling cigarettes after police had repeatedly warned him not to? This isn’t blaming the victim it’s trying to understand motivations.

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I am a friend to law enforcement and completely understand their daily challenges. To those who wear a badge, I say you’ve got another challenge on your plate now.  A good chunk of the population has come to see your profession as one to automatically fear and mistrust. It is way more than just a public relations problem and multiple steps are required to fix things.

Cadets Swear to Protect and Serve Everyone

Cadets Swear to Protect and Serve Everyone

Police academies have to adopt better ways of weeding out psychologically unsuitable cadets. Instructors need to include more non-confrontational training and stress the art of street level problem solving.

Police unions need to stop automatically going before cameras to defend questionable shoots and do more to pressure departments into providing state-of-the-art training and crime fighting tools like Tasers and body cameras. Demand qualified dispatchers who know to convey the full facts of a situation to officers in the field.

The cop on the beat who displays the uber-macho, bad-guy attitude when dealing with the public needs a slap upside the head and a reminder that the arbitrary enforcement of the law is the mark of tyranny. Citizens will always fight against it.

And, finally, back to the Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. Learn a lesson from what’s occurred recently – from the tiny burb of Ferguson to the inner city of Staten Island. You set the tone for your department. Even if you don’t think adjustments are necessary, take another look. Citizens of all colors are demanding change.

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Diane Dimond December 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

ABQ Journal Reader Dave writes:

“I enjoyed your story about cops and agree with your assessment..I, too, am an ardent supporter of our police forces, but certainly recognize the bad apple effect..and I’m glad you didn’t make it a racial matter, which, of course, it is not..although those are the most popular in terms of media coverage, it seems..Someone recently said that the minority situation was made worse by the various programs designed to help minorities..like jobs, school, etc..kinda a narrow minded approach, in my mind, but, as I think about it, it’s probably right…Now, the thing is, helping minorities in the way we do is, in my opinion, an artificial means of an attempt to do someting..and artificial things don’t really work…The only way the situations with our minorities can be truly fixed, is to somehow rid society of all negative feelings regarding minorities..i know..kinda Pollyanna..but, I think, true…I’m trying to be a bit of an idealist here, although generally I am a realist…”
Dave

Diane Dimond December 15, 2014 at 10:52 am

ABQ Journal Reader Max Sklower writes:

“I feel it is my DUTY to write to you and other commentators about the events that are splitting this country.

I basically agree with what you are saying about police retraining efforts. And I generally agreed with what the city of Albuquerque
agreed to do about the shootings by police. One of the most
beneficial results was legislation to change the rules on
hospital care for those with psychological problems.

Statistics which you overlooked are that 99% of the shootings were of either mentally impaired people or CRIMINALS mostly with multiple arrest records.

You and everyone else ignored all of the statistics about how
many arrests are made every year everywhere WITHOUT any shootings. Or how many shootings have been justified? Or how many black police offers shot whites or blacks.

I feel that the police in New York SHOULD have released the person on the earlier but his own WIFE on TV said he was lazy and had been told by her and others repeatedly NOT to go to that area and NOT to sell the cigarettes anywhere.

However, in the case of Ferguson, law abiding citizens who pay taxes like me ,are absolutely disgusted with the protests the reason for the protests and NOT even paying attention to the GRAND JURY results which were put forth for everyone to examine in detail.

Here is what MOST people like me are saying

1. A big guy with a bad track record robbed a store and his actions were on tape.

2. The owner reported it to the police and the police put out a bulletin.

3. When the policeman doing his duty tried to arrest the THIEF the results were chronicled by black observers who testified and the THIEF wound up dead. A grand jury was held and all results were reported and put on the table for EVERYONE to examine.

Then Jessie Jackson, and Al Sharpton went on willing news organizations with mostly liberal reporters and commentators and said that REGARDLESS of any facts that the officer should be tried and put in prison.

Also Obama who had already made a fool of himself and had to buy a beer for a cop in Massachusetts and who interferred in the Treyvon Martin case went on tv and said the he believed this was a racial incident. This prompted Eric Holder to actually GO to Fergusson all of which incited riots that wound up costing billions of dollars and DESTROYING (on tape) the stores of many hard working BLACKS and others who lost their life savings and means of support. Did YOU see those tapes?

IF THE THIEF HAD NOT ROBBED THE STORE I WOULD NOT EVEN BE WRITING THIS LETTER. HAD THE BIG GUY IN NEW YORK JUST SAID OK AND WENT TO JAIL THERE WOULD BE NO RIOTS.

POLLS have showed that that over 50% of the PUBLIC believes that since Obama got into office race relations have plummeted. Which news organisations have you watched that have covered this?

What many of us see is that the policies and REMARKS and continual LIES of this president (the NY TIMES called him a 4 star Pinocchio) have totally divided this country and have done NOTHING to get to the heart of and improve the UNEMPLOYMENT situation which is actually over 11% and for BLACKS over 20%. MOST all of the bills that he and the democrats have instituted are ANTI business and created MORE unemployment.

VERY little of the discussions and protests point to the high unwanted pregnancy rates in Black Communities where the male leaves the mother and kids with no father figure so the kids ultimately wind up in gangs and among arrests a HIGH % of these kids are imprisoned (or killed).

People like me AND THERE A MILLIONS have become very upset by all of the above and we do not go out and loot stores and tie up traffic but you notice we are going to the voting polls and many of us are writing to people like you. Myself and none of the people I discuss this have ANY racial bias toward Blacks or Hispanics and many ARE Blacks and Hispanics. In the Albuquerque Police shootings in a community of 36% Hispanics there has been NO racial accusations of legal motions.

Thank You for Your Attention”

Diane Dimond December 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

ABQ Journal Reader Tony Talbott writes:

“Thanks for your column. I’ve always been bothered how the majority can force the minority to do something. Do you have a solution?”
Thanks, Tony Talbott

Diane Dimond December 15, 2014 at 11:00 am

Dear Tony,

Yes. Those in the minority can start speaking up. People need to realize that a situation exists (any situation) because it has been ALLOWED to exist. Dissension changes things — as we see from all the demonstrations against police shootings — so if someone in the minority feels wronged they should make their voice heard. They should go to political meetings where policy is decided and speak up. At the very least they should get out and VOTE at every election. They can run for political office. They can start their own movement if so motivated.
Again, things don’t change until they are made to change. ~ DD

Diane Dimond December 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

ABQ Journal Reader Gunhild Vetter writes:

“Read you op-ed letter about police and Ferguson. Wonder if you have considered the influence and control the Federal Justice Department has been having over local police departments since they started giving money for different programs and with that money comes a lot of lost freedoms departments had in their training.

Take a look at all the military equipment the Federal government is giving to local law enforcement agencies. What do they need with the big heavy duty vehicles that are landmine proof? They are equipping local departments with military equipment for a reason. I believe it is to put in place the domestic army Obama talked about in his run for office, most people did not even remember him saying that.

I have heard interviews of New York merchants, and they are saying the guy there died because he could not breathe had run off their customers. Brown was nothing but a thug robbing and pushing victims around just before he attacked the officer and got more than he expected. He probably thought he could ruff up the officer and go his merry way.

It is crazy out there, I am glad I am no longer in law enforcement. It use to be people had respect for police and would stop and do what the officer told them to do. The blame should be on the shoulders of the parents who did not do their job of raising good citizens.

I often wonder when I hear of another police shooting of a mentally ill person, where are the parents and relatives when the mentally ill person is out there homeless. They sure have a way of coming out of the woodwork when they see they can make a profit from their now deceased mentally ill relative they did not want to deal with when he/she was alive.

Police departments have a hard time recruiting qualified applicants because this generation has a lot of weird values that I do not understand. Departments have to lower their standards in order to get enough applicants for an academy class, which could be another reason they have more problems dealing with the public. We no longer get the cream of the crop for applicants.”

Gunhild Vetter

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