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First thing, let's fire all the cops

Ted Rall on

In the latest shooting of an innocent civilian by a trigger-happy police officer, a white Fort Worth cop blew away a 28-year-old African American woman through her bedroom window as she played a video game with her 8-year-old nephew. Atatiana Jefferson's neighbor had called a nonemergency police number to request that they check on her because her doors were wide open.

"The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting," a spokesman said. Instead, he shouted through the window before killing Jefferson: "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!"

This atrocity followed the recent conviction of a white officer in Dallas who claimed that she had entered the wrong apartment in her building before mistakenly shooting an African American man. Botham Jean, 26, was eating ice cream in his own home, clearly not hers, when he was killed.

Police have shot and killed 717 people so far this year. Blacks are 2 1/2 times more likely to be shot to death by police officers than whites are. Many victims were unarmed.

Is it any surprise that only half of the public has confidence in Officer Not-So-Friendly? Public perception is worse among minorities and young people.

It's not a major political campaign issue, but it ought to be: Domestic policing in the United States needs to be reinvented from the ground up.

 

"From their earliest days in the (police) academy, would-be officers are told that their prime objective, the proverbial 'first rule of law enforcement,' is to go home at the end of every shift," Seth Stoughton notes in the Harvard Law Review. Policing experts call this me-first approach the warrior mentality. "Officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making."

In the real world, America's streets are not a war zone. Ninety-five percent of police officers go through their entire career without ever having to fire their weapon. But many cops are military veterans, and vets are 23% more likely than non-vets to draw and shoot.

Increasingly concerned about police shootings and the eroding of trust between cops and the people, some leaders are trying to promote a guardian mentality instead. "The guardian mindset prioritizes service over crime-fighting, and it values the dynamics of short-term encounters as a way to create long-term relationships," writes Stoughton. "As a result, it instructs officers that their interactions with community members must be more than legally justified, they must also be empowering, fair, respectful, and considerate. The guardian mindset emphasizes communication over commands, cooperation over compliance, and legitimacy over authority."

The priority for cops shouldn't be that they get to go home at the end of every shift. They should make sure that the people they interact with are safe.

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Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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