I have to congratulate the Washington Post for its recent foray into researching the incidence of citizen deaths at the hands of the police.   It is an effort that stems from the lack of collected data on such events and also the fact that there is no national data base that can be drawn upon for cross jurisdictional consistency since the standards and guidelines for reporting such events are all over the map.  As of today, there have been – according to the Post – an estimated 537 deaths of people at the hands of police officers.

Recent shootings were analyzed by a panel consisting of two ex-cops, a training instructor with the Los Angeles Police Department and a professor of Criminology from the University of South Carolina.  Published in today’s Post are their analyses of the five incidents including the deaths of Tamir Rice, Mario Woods, Charles Kinsey, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.    Here’s their analysis of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice:

Tamir Rice

35 seconds into video of Tamir Rice shooting on Nov. 22, 2014, in Cleveland
Alpert: The problem starts with the transfer of knowledge. The [911] caller is clearly saying, it’s a child. That it’s near a youth center. That it looks like a toy gun. None of that information got to the officers. The dispatcher put these officers in a horrible position.
22-26 seconds into Rice shooting
Lim: They come in so quick. The passenger officer is forced to engage with the suspect as soon as he gets there.
Alpert: Why would you drive up so close? Why not park on the street, take cover, try to engage this person? Try to negotiate. If that was a real gun, and the person wanted to shoot someone, the passenger in the patrol car would have been dead.
McCarthy: You stop about 40 feet away, you verbalize, and use the vehicle as partial cover. If an officer takes total cover he can’t see what the suspect is doing. At 30, 40 feet away, even if they needed to shoot, they are trained, the officers would be able to be very accurate. The suspect, if he had a real gun, probably would not be able to be so accurate. There is clearly a problem with training.
Klinger: You see the patrol car is moving at a pace where it cannot stop short. Why are you driving up so close? That is the core issue. You see Mr. Rice start to approach the vehicle. You have a situation where one police officer makes a really poor decision about the placement of the vehicle, and then he puts his partner in a no-win situation. It appears as if Mr. Rice is withdrawing a gun and the shooting happens. I cannot blame any officer who is mere feet away from someone who is in the process of withdrawing a gun.

The city of Cleveland settled with the Tamir Rice family for $6 million. The officers involved in the incident have not been charged.

Here’s the analysis of the shooting of Philando Castile:

Philando Castile

Philando Castile video on July 6 in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Lim: I would have probably got him out of the car. I don’t know where the gun is at. This would allow me to get more control over the situation. You have too many unknowns to walk up on him that close. Being right beside the window like that makes him too overexposed. He should have taken cover behind the patrol car. He should have slowed things down. When someone has a gun, you need to be extra vigilant in using cover effectively.
Alpert: If he is responding to a robbery suspect, it’s hard to understand why he would place himself in front of the window like that. You can approach at an angle so you aren’t in the immediate line of fire. We don’t know exactly what [the officer] was responding to. We don’t know what was said. There seem to be other options, but without knowing the full details of what the officer knew, it’s hard to say. ... The consistent theme is you have him put his hands in a position where he can’t reach for a weapon.
McCarthy: This individual fit the description of a very dangerous suspect, who was believed to be armed. Then the officer walks up on the car. That’s a tactical error. I would get the male suspect out of the car; I’m using my patrol car as partial cover. I’m 40 feet away, giving verbal commands, telling him to get out of the car. I would ask him to get face down on the ground, facing away from the officer. Then you wait for backup. Once he walks up on the car, he puts himself in a bad spot. ... I hate seeing a guy pointing a gun in the car in the direction of the kid. The officer’s safety doesn’t come before the safety of the child in the back seat of the car. ... To me, the officer appears to be out of control emotionally.
Klinger: We are now learning that they thought he was a potential robbery suspect, which has me scratching my head even more now. You don’t walk up to the car under those circumstances. You just don’t. If I see a passenger and a child in the back seat, I’m going to keep my distance. I’m going to ask him to step out of the vehicle. I’d have him come out, pat him down. ... There is a lot we don’t know. We don’t see the actual shooting. And, with the moments after, that are recorded, we are hearing two different narratives about what went down. What happened before is the $64,000 question.
The Philando Castile shooting is under investigation.

In reading the article (and I recommend that you do) I couldn’t help noting that in virtually every case the folks reviewing these cases faulted the police for not employing standard operating procedures when faced with threats and noted the lack of de-escalation procedures in nearly all cases.  This really is disturbing.  It calls into question what kind of “training” police officers receive and just how effective it might be.  Most of these cases – if not all – were not cases where the police officers involved were being fired at by the “suspect,” weren’t in imminent danger of losing their lives and weren’t in situations that were so fraught with danger that demanded that shooting the suspect was the clear and only option.  It’s clear to me that of the five cases reviewed, the deaths of these five citizens need not have happened.

NOTE:  God needs to give us here in D.C. a break!  We are NOT Trump supporters so there's no need to try to fry all of us with hellish heat.  


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