It’s Time to Get Serious About Reducing the Number of Citizens Killed By Police

“Unless we significantly reduce this rate (a yearly average of 1,000 citizen deaths by police), we will do little to raise the level of trust and support that our police need to effectively respond to crime and become true community peacekeepers…”

On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott, an unarmed man, was fatally shot in North Charleston, South Carolina, by Police Officer Michael Slager. 

It is no longer acceptable that during the last six years we have not been able to reduce the number of persons killed by police. Our rate of using deadly force (that is, deaths/100M population) compared to other democratic nations in the world finds us in first place with 33.5 deaths/100M population.

This is a national embarrassment when compared with Canada with (9.8), Australia (8.5), Netherlands (2.3), New Zealand (2.0), Germany (1.3), and England and Wales (0.5).

We are way off the chart. Unless we significantly reduce this rate, we will do little to raise the level of trust and support that our police need to be effectively respond to crime and become true community peacekeepers.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: If we want police to be more restrained in their use of force; to use less deadly force, we are currently training them incorrectly and not long enough:

Let me put forth my credentials for those of you who may be new to this blogsite: I was a street cop in a major urban city, and taught defensive tactics. Later, I served as a chief in two cities during my 30+ year career. In addition, I have expert ratings in three Asian martial arts. I know what I am talking about.

We continue train warrior-cops when we need to train peacekeepers. Since 9/11, we have improperly trained a generation of police officers. What we are seeing today is the result of that error.

Police training has concentrated on the use of firearms to solve interactional problems — aim and shoot “center-mass,” then continue to shoot until the threat is eliminated. This almost always results in the death of a suspect and an outraged community.

A “use of force continuum,” was once the standard. It consisted of a series of actions from verbal command to grip control, followed by baton strikes, takedowns, and body restraint. The teaching being that as a suspect’s resistance increases, the officer uses just enough force to overcome the resistance. It seems that today’s use of force teaching jumps too quickly from verbal, to firearm, to death.

In order for a free and democratic society to work, citizens need to be confident and assured that their police are committed and trained to respect and preserve their lives — and to use deadly force only when it is an absolute necessity, the standard in the European Union.

Along this line, we need to develop control methods that use “less than deadly force” and train police in those methods as do police in the Czech Republic and Sweden. This should include a robust pursuit and creation of new technologies to control dangerous people without putting their lives in danger.

This must also involve training in “de-escalation” methods and create a work culture which supports “peer intervention.” By that I mean when a police officer is about to make a mistake other officers, who may be standing by, are encouraged to act to stop what might happen. (This involves a change in organizational culture. In this new culture, however, officers pledge to each other the following, “It’s okay for you to intervene, to stop me, if I am about to do something that will embarrass me, cause me to lose my job, or cause me to end up in jail.”)

All this will require a strong commitment (and funding) in order to develop solid, fail-safe technologies and teaching methods that will enable persons to be arrested by police without loss of life.

_________________________

[See my earlier blog on this subject: “Re-thinking Center-Mass Shooting.”

Some recent research supports ICAT Training to de-fuse critical incidents.

  • ICAT not only reduced use of force and reduces injuries to citizens, it also actually made officers safer. 
  • ICAT training with the St. Louis Metro PD was associated with a 28% reduction in use of force by Louisville officers, a 26% decline in citizen injuries, and a 36% reduction in officer injuries!

Suffice it to also say that we, as a nation, ALSO need to do something to control the proliferation of handguns. Interested? You can begin with “Why America Needs to Ban Handguns.”

10 Comments

  1. Sorry David, I need to push back (again). We are in fact reducing police killings. One is too many but for those who choose to confront officers while armed, the vast majority of all killings, I side with the officer every time. For those unarmed and killed by the police, here are the stats from WAPO; 2015 70, 2016 41, 2017 53, 2018 58, 2019 39, 2020 ytd 20. De-escalation is fine right up to the point that it puts officers at risk. When a violent individual confronts or resists an officer they need to be subdued, period. Failure to do that has resulted in injury and death to suspects and officers alike. There is NEVER a legal or moral justification for fighting with a police officer. That is what we should be teaching people as opposed to scapegoating the police for social and racial justice issues that they can not do anything about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, Pat, if this was a perfect world, no one would resist arrest because police have are respected and seen as legitimate. In the meantime, we all have work to do including how we train police to be fair and trustworthy anti-racists while working in a racist system (and society). Glad to see the WAPO breakdown on shooting unarmed. But I would also expect police could do a lot better in responding to suspects with edged weapons without taking their lives. Possible? They do in the UK and most EU countries. Something to learn from them? Always good to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would like to know more about the things that the Czechs have contributed to law enforcement. Too bad the USA doesn’t learn from the rest of the world instead of acting like a snob.

    Solarp, You are 100% wrong about the police not able to do anything about the problems in the USA. The police have played an important part in the economic, social, and racial issues in this country ever since this country got its independence; yet, too many of them are in denial and do not want to admit it let alone solve it. Even to this day, they are still acting like a private police force for the wealthy people and corporations plus ever since 9/11, cities, counties, and states have been passing laws to suppressing people’s right to protest, criminalizing homelessness, and the mentally ill under the disguise of fighting terrorism and you don’t see the police departments protesting en mass about it. The only thing that these post 911 laws have done is to legitimize police corruption and brutality.

    There is never a legal or moral justification for police officers to violate people’s rights. That is what the cops need to be taught. As Martin Luther stated, “A riot is the language of the unheard” and as JFK stated
    ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

    Since when have cops ever care about the suspects they injured or killed? If they care about the suspects, they would have work to defuse a situation instead of elevating it. I recommend reading the book, Robert Koga: The Man Behind the Legend. Mr. Koga spent a lifetime working on developing methods for cops to arrest people in a safe way plus using his intelligence to defused a situation. He was highly critical about how to arrest people when he had started off at the LAPD Academy and when he was assigned there a few years later, he discovers nothing had changed. If he didn’t have the backing of Chief Parker, he wouldn’t have been able to implement his arrest techniques.

    In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have a need for the cops. We would be like Captain Picard’s Star Trek where on Picard’s earth everyone’s needs were met and money not be needed to buy things. That is the world I would like to be in.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “There is NEVER a legal or moral justification for fighting with a police officer.”

    Oh, I see. If I see an off duty cop committing domestic violence on his family, boyfriend, girlfriend, or next-door neighbor, then are you saying that I shouldn’t go in there and tried to prevent the cop from possibly killing the people I had just mention let alone shoot him in self-defense if he pulls a gun on me in an attempt to stop me from killing the people I had just mention considering the fact that you cops are always saying that you can’t put a cop on every block and that there at times, the other cops wouldn’t arrive in time or they are not available particularly in a rural area?

    Funny how many cops are frantic believers in the 2nd Amendment; yet, they don’t seem to want to use their guns when one of their cops steps out of line whether on duty or off duty and commits bad acts aka government tyranny. If the 2nd Amendment really protected us from government tyranny, police corruption and brutality would have ended a long, long, long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gunther, you (again) raise systemic issues that Prof. Solar most likely does not hear in the hallowed grounds of the university. There must be more than one voice in the “academy.” Unless police begin to understand their role and the crippling pressures of racism which surround them, they will do little to raise themselves up from how they are perceived by those whom they primarily police. As i have written and taught, we cannot talk about improving the relationship between police and people of color in this nation without seriously talking about race and racism. When that relationship is seen as trustworthy and legitimate, the danger to both citizens AND their police will be greatly reduced.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rev. Couper, the police also need to understand their role in creating and sustaining the economic problems they created as well by breaking up unions, beating up and even murdering both striking workers and union activists, etc. Thanks to Covid 19, people have seen the failure of the capitalist system along with government inaction to ensure that people have a good economic safety net to help them through bad times and that the country had an adequate supply of medical gear and drugs because it had a manufacturing base to produce them instead of having other countries make them. The end result is that domestic violence, alcoholism, divorce, and even murder in American families have gone through the roof according to Harriet Fraad who is a feminist activist, psychotherapist, and hypnotherapist in New York City and is the wife of the Marxist professor Richard Wolff.

    Professors like Solar don’t want to hear about systemic issues that this country has been facing no matter how much education they have obtained in their careers. Their minds are permanently shut and they cut themselves off from the common ordinary folks and stick with their own kind (like cops for example I thought that the purpose of an education was to open one’s minds and not use it to enslaved oneself or enslaved other people.

    We also definitely need to talk about economic issues like good wages, job security, the power of corporations, treating workers as equal partners in the economy and having them own shares of the company plus sitting on the board of directors, etc, as well. When that happens, the danger to both citizens and the police will be greatly reduced.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely David, I would have liked to see a less-than-lethal option for these officers in the Phili case, this is exactly why the bean-bag shotgun round was developed but this is certainly not a perfect world. However, we are moving in the wrong direction by vilifying the police this way. The best are walking away and the numbers of those willing to take-on the challenge of policing are dwindling. Soon we will be left with only the worst cops.

    Today thinking is taking a back seat to the cry of “systemic racism.” We are substituting reason for the “lived experiences” of people of color as in the case of the anti-racist perspective where you are either a racist or an anti-racist. NO, show me racist conduct, behavior or public policy and I’ll stand against it with you but don’t simply state that there is racism out there in everything, as do the critical race theorists. This is pure Marxist conflict theory, substituting race for social class, and it goes no where good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Solarp, left with only worst cops? We can’t even get the current ones to act like good cops. Vilifying the police? Sorry, but the cops brought this on themselves and they know it and you know it. Wish you guys/gals would quit denying how bad you are.

    What thinking is taking a back seat to “systemic racism?” Police have always put a back seat to doing genuine police reform and they always support systemic racism in this country, and you know it as well.

    “NO, show me racist conduct, behavior or public policy and I’ll stand against it with you but don’t simply state that there is racism out there in everything, as do the critical race theorists.”

    Oh, you seem to have forgotten the Sundown laws, Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, redlining that banks used to prevent minorities from moving up in the world, etc. We now see debtor prisons returning that hit the minorities and poor people along with people of color being stuck in jail because they can’t afford bail because of lousy wages and due to their color, etc. In Florida, they want minorities who have been tried in court to pay all sorts of fines and court fees despite the fact that the voters had passed a ballot allowing ex-felons to have the right to vote.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No, solarp. The police play a large part in both racism and social class in this country not that usual Marxist theory that you and other conservatives like you have been spouting off since the 19th century. You only use Marxism to cover up the systematic problems of race and class in this country and now you can no longer use it since the Berlin Wall fell nearly 30 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to jimmy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.