Today is a tense day in America. The grand jury in Ferguson Missouri found that Officer Wilson was justified in shooting his victim to death, and riots have been raging over night. There are some things that I think need to be said to our children to turn this situation around. Even if Darren Wilson was completely within the confines of the law, and his duty as an officer, a citizen's death should mean more than it does.
We Should be Keeping Track
Everywhere that you look for statistics on police shootings, you find the same opening phrase: It is difficult to determine how many die in officer involved shootings, because no official records are kept regarding these statistics. What? How is that even possible? With all of the things we can track, down to how many gallons of “fossil fuels” were dispensed by state, county or city! How is it that human life has become so cheap.
- The law must protect everyone, even “thugs” deserve not to be shot down in the street unless it is necessary.
- There is no excuse for there not to be a national database on this statistic. It isn't hard, it gets recorded, but no nation record? Come on, this should be a no brainer!
- A national move to correct this problem should all ready be under way. I fear that this may be a ploy to show local policing as inadequate to pave the way for a federal program. I don't know why else we haven't done something before now.
Teach Your Children Conflict Resolution
It is important that someone begins to teach kids to de-escalate potentially violent situations. In too many cases, however, these shootings show no engagement between the officers and the victim, just arrival, and shots fired without any questions being asked.
- Teach your kids that a casket is a lot harder to get out of than a jail cell, and that they need to comply, quietly, without questioning. I hate this, because everything in me wants to teach my kids to resist the intrusion, but cops will shoot you. They will!
- If your kid wants to be a cop, you better make damn sure they learn to keep calm. Put them through whatever you have to, to get them trained! Cops are far too often the ones to introduce a hostile attitude, which gets a perfectly normal response. I sincerely doubt Darren Wilson was polite when he asked Brown to stop in the street.
- Do not initiate contact with an officer unless absolutely necessary. Even if you don't get shot in the face, like Brown did, it can go wrong in so many ways. Just don't do it.
Change the Law
The City of Houston has had 88 officer involved shooting deaths since 2006, and not one indictment of an officer. The quote this morning was that Wilson, “Followed the law, and followed his training”. It seems that the general attitude in the vast, and overwhelming majority of these cases is that the officers did exactly what they were trained to do, and that it was within the law.
- If this is the training, then something needs to be changed, 600+ per year (someone's best guess, since no stats are compiled) is too many bodies, to give some perspective, you have a better chance of being shot by a cop, than being struck by lightning, three times more likely!
- There are countries where police violence is unheard of and we have the worst record of any first world country. ( I say this, because, who really knows what's happening in some places, resources are not spent on statistics) This should not be the case. We are not an outlaw wasteland.
- Officers traditionally have not been held accountable for their violence on citizens and frankly, that is disgusting and inexcusable. They should be held to a higher standard. Police should not investigate their own shootings. There are enough police agencies to at least have another department or agency conduct that review.
Stop Thinking You Know What Happened
If you are not a part of the problem, or the solution, it probably is not your business. We all have opinions about this case, I have mine, but that is not what this post is about! I think the problem is common enough it deserves a solution. But, I don't know what happened here. I trust that the Grand Jury answered with their conscience, based on the evidence that was presented to them.
- Focus on solutions, not the problem. Focusing on the problem, leads to burning down gas stations. Focusing on the problem leads to anger and violence.
- Focusing on the solution leads to reasoned conversation, writing books that present alternatives, studies of the problem that help find specific issues.
- We need something positive to say. We are not going to do away with police officers, but we need to support them, while still holding them accountable and asking them to remember that they are citizens too.
I am sure that if I were an officer, dealing primarily with the problem people in my community, it would be easy to start seeing targets instead of faces. I know that. It does not, however, change the fact that the police should be here to reduce violence, not incite it. I know from my own limited interactions with police, fueled by what, from my wife's description I would describe as “Serial Killer Resting Face” that I have experience officers that were much more hostile than the situation warranted. This needs to change. Whatever it is that is putting this pressure on them, has not always been there. This is a fairly new occurrence and we all know it.