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Police Brutality Isn’t Always Racist

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From extensive training, to unavoidable deaths, policeman are ready for any scenario. What may seem as an act of racism and brutality is a policeman performing their training, because police brutality isn’t always racist. November 22, 2014, 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot to death by Police Officer Timothy Loehmann. The incident happened when police were called due to reports on Rice, stating that he was walking around threatening people with a gun. The police responded to the scene where Rice was standing on the curb where he attempted to pull out the gun, following with officer Loehmann firing twice at close range, killing the child. The gun turned out to be a plastic bb gun and the case blew up due to the nature of the incident and the actions leading up to Rice’s death.

The case was taken to court and seen as an act of racism towards the child and there were however many events before and during the ordeal that raised many questions. The jury declined to charge Loehmann and this caused a national outrage. New York Times stated: “In announcing the decision, Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga county prosecutor, said he had recommended that the grand jurors not bring charges in killing the boy, Tamir Rice who was playing with the gun outside a recreation center in November 2014.” According to the prosecutor, the situation had been seen as an accident and mistake due to miscommunication. People refused to settle with this outcome since the child had died. It was a mistake that could have been avoided if the officers had communicated. This lack of training and impulsive mistake had cost a life.

When policeman enter the academy, they go through training for various situations from arrests, arresting a violent suspect, shooting, force and defense skills and a substantial amount of preparation for many scenarios that could take place in the field. Many people have died from police killings however in a majority of the cases, it’s not because they are being actively racist it’s because the officers are acting based on how they have been trained. Officer safety is their main priority when beginning training. They are also taught that any situation could be a potential threat so they have to be ready for anything, anytime. People are very unpredictable and during arrests there is heightened tension, people are nervous, possibly angry and usually fearful. The officers have to be ready for any of these feelings from people, they also need to have the correct communicatory training for speaking to people and keeping the situation calm and straightforward.

In the article, “How Police Training Contributes To Avoidable Deaths,” author Seth Stoughton states: “Police training starts in the academy, where the concept of officer safety is so heavily emphasized that it takes on almost religious significance. Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. But cops live in a hostile world. They learn that every encounter, every individual is a potential threat. They always have to be on their guard because,

as cops often say, “complacency kills….More pointed lessons come in the form of hands-on exercises. One common scenario teaches officers that a suspect leaning into a car can pull out a gun and shoot at officers before they can react. Another teaches that even when an officer are pointing a gun at a suspect whose back is turned, the suspect can spin around and fire first. Yet another teaches that a knife-carrying suspect standing 20 feet away can run up to an officer and start stabbing before the officer can get their gun out of the holster. There are countless variations, but the lessons are the same: Hesitation can be fatal. So officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late.” In relation to Rice’s case the officer fired when he saw the gun in Rice’s hand. He wasn’t acting with racist intent he was using his training on their main object officer safety. During the case review all officers and video footage showed both policeman telling Rice to drop the gun and Rice continued to wave the weapon around and ignore the instructions. Officer Loehmann hadn’t committed anything illegal or outside of his training he was following protocol and the incident ended up being an unfortunate death of the child.

This case was heavily reviewed and covered, both officers present were questioned and a lot of research took place on their backgrounds and training in the academy. Both officers had passed confidently so there was no doubt on either of their actions being a deliberate force of brutality. Even though there could have possibly been better use of communication since there was what they thought was a weapon involved, then the officers had to do what was right for them in protecting themselves and being safe.

“The risks of mistake are less, far less than the risks of hesitation” (Stoughton, “how police training contributes to avoidable deaths.”) officers are trained to shoot the suspect before the threat is realized, they aren’t to wait till the last minute before it’s too late. When approaching a suspect, someone they have pulled over, rowdy incidents and many other scenarios the person could be holding a wallet, a hairbrush,that could look like a gun or if someone is reaching for something in their car or moving around to grab something, the officer has no idea if the person is reaching for a weapon of any kind, therefore they have to act quickly in the moment and subdue the threat.

In 2017 and 2018 a poll was taken and statistics show caucasian deaths by police killings were a lot higher than African American deaths by police killings. Even though it was shown that African American people are more likely to be killed, race isn’t always a factor in the cases. Many of the cases involving a death of an African American person are usually talked about a lot, shared and broadcasted more than other deaths because the society that we live in does have a substantial amount of racism active currently. Along with this in another poll taken, during arrests, questioning or routine check ups, African American people tended to be more hostile and violent in those situations, therefore the police acted on their training for dealing with potential threats.

Patrick Worrall, author of “The Claim,” stated: “FBI arrest rates are one way into this. Over the last three years of data – 2011 to 2013 – 38.5 percent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black.” A lot of the deaths were unfortunately unarmed African American people, however in many of the cases the police were acting on their training. There does however need to be accountability within each situation. After every situation officers need to debrief and go over how the situation went. After discussing they should figure out ways they could have handled the situation differently and possibly having a different outcome. Their training has always focused on officers lives first,

however while keeping that as a main focus they should then focus on keeping all lives safe. The officers are seen as violent, racist and unfair, so in order to change that image training needs to be adjusted or added too. Recently body cameras have been put into action. People want to see how each situation plays out, this also gives the officers the opportunity to show an explain their stance on what happened and there is hard evidence showing whether or not the death could have been avoided. “Unfortunately, most officers are unable to receive as much education and training as departments would like. That said, however, the training you do receive plays an important role in the decision-making process, even when techniques employed on the street may not be exactly as you practiced them in training.” This is an issue, they need to include more training and more humane ways for dealing with situations such as reaching for a taser instead of reaching for a gun.

In addition to this idea of the use of tasers first instead of guns, Michael E. Miller stated: This work examines the effect of organizational policy changes regarding the placement of the taser on the Use-of-Force Continuum on taser deployments. Officers’ perceptions of taser effectiveness after the policy change were also examined. The question explored in this study is whether there is a relationship between officer attitudes related to taser use and their subsequent perception of taser effectiveness. This study examines one agency’s experiences with tasers during two separate time periods, using archival use of force and officer survey data. This examination is crucial as much of the debate and controversy regarding the use of tasers by police focuses on the circumstances surrounding when police use tasers and what level of suspect resistance it is designed to defeat (Cronin and Ederheimer, 2006).

After the introduction of newer and more powerful tasers in the early 1980s, many police agencies integrated their deployment into the Use-of-Force Continuum at a level to be used when suspects were only passively resisting the actions of the officer. The use of tasers in these low- intensity situations led to considerable media attention and public controversy (PERF, 2005). A review of current literature reveals no empirical research on the placement of tasers into the Use-of-Force Continuum. In response to this scrutiny and to mitigate citizen complaints, many police agencies increased the required level of resistance by suspects from passive resistance to active physical resistance before tasers were authorized to be deployed.” (Police Taser Utilization: The Effect of Policy Change.) Improvement of new training techniques will hopefully change the outcome of many police killings and change the statistics of death by race so that most police officers are no longer seen as dangerous and racist.

Black lives matter and all lives matter. Police killings are viewed as brutal, unjust or racist but are simply misunderstood by many people. With more specific training police could focus on protecting all lives. However with the majority of the cases there were explanations to the actions taken, showing that police intentions are safety for themselves and others and that race isn’t always an active part of the situation.


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