Stand up and listen

Sept. 15, 2014

Just days ago National Guard troops arrived in Ferguson, Mo. to help lessen the chaos and rioting in the St. Louis suburb. FBI agents are conducting a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown, and multiple autopsies have been requested to understand what happened in those precious few seconds.

Are there times when an officer is justified in pulling the trigger? Of course. One need only listen to stories at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial or watch videos of ‘traffic stops gone wrong’ to recall anything can happen: suspect swipes officer’s gun and uses it against him or her; suspect is concealing a firearm and intends to use it.

It’s true, too, there are times when adrenaline rules and, although a life-or-death situation is perceived, lethal force proves to have been a mismatch for the person and circumstance. This is not to discredit that feeling, as it is based in training. Do police officers make bad decisions? Sometimes. But when an officer acts in the interest of self defense, it can end up a tragic—or lifesaving—decision.

Did Brown charge at Wilson? Was he trying to surrender? It would seem Wilson feared for his life. In an interview with USA Today Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C. and former police officer David Klinger, said the conflicting accounts are evidence that more departments should require officers to have cameras on their uniforms and cars.

Now comes the learning. From this incident’s aftermath departments will look at ways to keep peace during protest; whether and when to enlist help; how to communicate with protesters and media. Some agencies will look more closely at less-lethal training (like when to use rubber bullets and their capacity) or racial training. Ferguson Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters his department is working with Justice Dept. community relations experts to address the racial discord since Brown’s death, and is reportedly working with the NCAAP to arrange a meeting with Brown’s relatives.

The public could stand to learn some lessons too...peaceful protest for one.

Sgt. Eric Gonzales of the Pueblo (Colo.) Police department told his local news station KOAA, “The real learning comes after the fact...when everybody gets together and decides what could have been done better”.

What will you take away from the events in Ferguson?

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