Innocent civilians are at risk from the police. We’ve had egregious examples in recent months. This is how we can fix these broken police policies, and this is why it’s urgent.
-The police receive a report of a crime in progress. The report is a lie. The person on the phone with the police has made about 20 false reports. The police arrive at your home. It is the middle of the night and you hear yelling from outside. You walk outside to see what is going on. Voices from the darkness say they are the police. Multiple police officers give commands. The police are approximately thirty-five yards from you. You can’t see them or the police cars. All you see are bright lights and you hear voices. One policeman loses sight of one of your hands. Since you might be going for a weapon, you’re shot dead by police. This happened in Kansas.
-You hear a knock at the door in the middle of the night. You aren’t expecting anyone. You are a law- abiding gun owner without a criminal record. You walk to the door armed. That is what self-defense experts, and even some police officers, suggest you do in this situation. A policeman sees you through the sidelights. He is outside your home and you are inside. The policeman sees your gun and shoots you dead. You never made it to the door. This happened in Florida.
These and similar incidents illustrate a dangerous pattern. The police treat possible threats as lethal threats. They then kill unarmed and innocent civilians without warning. The murder is often preceded by a lethal game of simon-says where the police issue commands until the innocent civilian makes a mistake and is killed. In several fatal examples, there were no actual threats of any kind to the police officers involved.
We are in this situation because of qualified immunity. Qualified Immunity is a legal defense where government officials are held harmless if they followed established procedures. Ordinary citizens do not have this legal immunity. You and I would be held criminally negligent if we did what the police do. We are lucky to have a cure.
We use simulators to train law enforcement when to shoot and when not to shoot. This reality based training is extremely useful in exposing weaknesses in police policy and in officer training. Now we can use these simulators to fix broken police procedures, but with a twist. We need to put a few civilians through the simulators, not the police.
We have many recordings of officers arresting civilians. We know what they say. We want to expose ordinary citizens to these simulations and capture the results as the citizens respond.
By ordinary citizens I mean Walmart shoppers. We want to test the people most likely to come in contact with the police. Let’s record how they respond with flashing lights, loud noise and conflicting unexpected commands. There are many use-of-force instructors who can look at the multiple videos and tally-up the number of times these innocent citizens would have been shot by police who were “just following procedures”. How many innocent civilians should we sacrifice? One out of a million, or one out of five?
“Just following procedures” sounds too much like “just following orders” to me, but I could be wrong. The reality based simulations will show us. They will establish how many civilians are shot while officers are “just following accepted police procedures”. Police agencies might not generate and release this data but you can be sure that lawyers representing the dead person’s family certainly will.
We don’t have to guess if police procedures are safe and effective. We can measure them.
If your city council thought that training and testing is expensive, wait until they see what jury verdicts cost. Although “procedures” are the basis for qualified immunity, those procedures can, are, and will be challenged in court by plaintiffs’ lawyers through expert testimony.
Lawyers will try to show that the police didn’t follow their own procedures and that the procedures as taught are not best practice. Police training departments MUST keep up with any new trends, from non/less-lethal weapons to new verbal techniques in dealing with suspects, bystanders, and even pet dogs.
Thanks to my friends Greg Hopkins and David Cole for their comments. All opinions and errors are mine and may not reflect their beliefs. RM
Image: Excerpted from: CCO Creative Commons; https://pixabay.com/en/agent-armed-armour-automatic-black-1239354/