The Cure for Bad Policing

Unless you have been living under a rock, it is possible that you are quite familiar with the tensions that have surfaced regarding police and communities throughout the country. But there may be a cure for this.

Racial bias, profiling, unwarranted arrests, and excessive use of force are just several of the discussed issues that reflect the breakdown between officer and civilian, more so in minority communities.

Recently, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man is caught illegally selling guns in an undercover sting operation. He attempts to flee after realizing he had been caught. A reserve officer shoots the suspect, although claiming that he had intentions of using his taser. An officer’s taser is typically located by his chest and the gun at his waist. The suspect dies. Many question how a trained officer could confuse the two.

The lead investigator that conducted an independent review of this case claims that there is scientific explanation for what occurred called “slips and capture”. He explains that under the slips and capture theory, an officer may react differently under extreme circumstances, in spite of training.

I considered this idea, but questioned if it was at all possible for fatalities to be avoided when police are confronted with hostile or uncooperative suspects. I immediately thought of CIA and FBI agents. In order for the men and women hired to work for these agencies, they undergo a hodgepodge of psychological tests that determine if they are able to withstand the pressures of properly functioning in extreme situations. Could using this approach for local police departments prevent these tragedies from happening?

A city experiences an earthquake. There is an assumption that the number of fatalities will be high, not only because the ground opens up beneath your feet and objects that stand tall are now making their way down towards your pretty little head, but also knowing that people will be running in all directions in sheer panic, causing more harm that good. We can’t blame them though, it is a normal human response. In the midst of the chaos, however, there are those who remember one little piece of advice given by mom or a tip they learned on one of those survival shows. It is probably best to stand in the threshold of a door, due to its structurally sound body. They do this and it saves their life and probably other lives as well. We commend them for having great “instincts”. But is it instincts or good logic?

I believe that instinct leans to more habitual behavior, that is, behavior that comes as second nature. Logic requires a process of thought and reasoning. So what if thinking “logically” under extreme circumstances became the standard for law enforcement? Could these cases have turned out differently, preventing the loss of life? Mistakes do happen and people should be allowed to make them. But one factor that could differentiate police officers from civilians is their ability to be cool-headed and always ready to diffuse a volatile situation-not add to its already existing contentiousness.

According to this investigator, training is not preventive in slips and capture. So what if the police force was only to hire people who are predisposed to behaving more logically and less instinctually under pressure?Undoubtedly, the act first/ask later approach currently in place and used in these situations, have all ended in tragedy. Perhaps, a think fast/then react method may have conceivably changed these outcomes.



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