Friday, October 27, 2017

Protect and Serve

Could you be a cop? You would be admired by many, feared by some, and hated by others. Could you wield deadly force, if necessary? Aye, there's the rub. In the heat of the moment, could you take another''s life to save your own or that of another? When the smoke clears and the one who threatened is found to only have fake gun, how would that make you feel? 

In Madison, until recently, cops were told "the purpose of deadly force is to stop the threat." This seems to be a clear-cut directive that would entail little hesitation when time is of the essence. Now suddenly, cops must first consider that their duty is to ensure the "protection and preservation of all human life", victims and perpetrators alike (New Police Procedures). This new policy takes into account not just the appearance of imminent violence, but the circumstances in which it occurs and the state of mind of the individuals involved. And still a decision needs to be made on the fly as a situation unfolds. The point is, that cops have other options, including deescalation and non-lethal force. 

The trick is processing this additional instruction in a short amount of time. The other part of it is overcoming preconceived notions about the citizen being confronted. Will the mentally ill and people of color be given the the same benefit of the doubt? Training to implement the new policies will help cops adjust the way they interact with the public, but changing their cultural response may take a more concerted effort.

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