Any incident where life is lost is tragic, especially when it is preventable. My heart goes out to anyone that has lost a loved one for any reason and under any circumstances.
Law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. The vast majority of people who choose law enforcement as a profession, do so to help their communities. They have a desire to be involved and willingly risk their lives for the benefit of others.
When we in law enforcement see something like this unjust use of force in Minneapolis, we are as appalled and sickened as everyone else. It’s an embarrassment for those in this profession, and it’s devastating to the families and the entire community. Those officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and make it even harder for the rest of the good law enforcement officers to serve their communities. Law enforcement officers are required to intervene any time they see an unauthorized use of force by another officer.
Law enforcement leaders must be willing to question and denounce unjust use of force, as it also works to destroy the trust within our communities. Training is imperative, however it can easily become less of a priority in some agencies due to severe manpower shortages and budget constraints. I am not in any way excusing the behavior of these officers or a failure by an agency to adequately train. Improvement starts with leadership from the top all the way down to the immediate supervisors. It requires financial commitments from politicians to fully and adequately fund the required training to achieve reform.
This continued training needs to include use of force, addressing mental health incidents and the interpersonal skills to treat all individuals with respect. Supervisors need to be responsible to be trained to spot struggling officers and intervene. Broadly speaking, the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group.
As a result of the United States Supreme Court case Graham v. Conner, law enforcement officers take into account the severity of the crime, the individual’s immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others and whether the suspect is actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest by fight. The amount of force appropriate by policy is measured by the totality of the circumstances and therefore, whether reasonably objective in light of all the facts and circumstances.
Respectful communication on all sides is a key component to working together on reform. It is absolutely necessary to have a ZERO tolerance policy on racism both personally and professionally.