According to The Guardian, law enforcement officers in the United States had killed 566 people in 2016 by July , and killed 1146 in 2015 (KilledByPolice.net counted 604 killings this year and 1208 in 2015). California leads with 74 deaths by police, Texas has had 50, Florida 39, Arizona 22 and North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Maine turn out to be the states where you are least likely to be killed by a cop, each with only 1 person killed in each state so far this year. Yet according to the Death Penalty Information Center, only 14 have been legally executed in the United States.
When you become a police officer, when you put on a shield and are entrusted with carrying a deadly weapon, it comes with an understanding that you are putting your life at risk. Are we not teaching that in police training? According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 53 officers have been killed in the line of duty this year so far (up to 58 after the shootings in Dallas) so there is obviously a risk, but how is that number 10% of the people who die at the hands of police? Not that I think more officers should die, but there seems to be an inordinate amount of killing of those they are sworn to protect and serve.
In Sarasota, police cars no longer say “to protect and serve.” It seems that around the country law enforcement officers have forgotten that aspect of their assignment. It sometimes seems as if we are merely giving people guns, tasking them with shaking people down for money, and telling them to go out and protect themselves at all costs without proper psychological preparation.
Shooting a person is a serious matter, and a person has to feel compelled by a certain amount of either fear or hatred to pull the trigger. Shooting a person 2 or 3 times means you’re really scared or really angry. Shooting a person 4 or more times means you are either a complete coward, or you have merely been hiding behind a badge just waiting to avenge whatever injustice you think has befallen you in life.
How are we allowing these weak, spineless, mentally and emotionally unstable people into these positions of trust? Are we doing anything to train them in non-violent communication or meditation, empowering them to be keepers of the peace, or are we just covering them in armor and teaching them how to shoot to kill?
This is, of course, one of the reasons so many gun owners are so adamant about their right to have heavier artillery. With police forces posing such a threat, and the rising distrust of government, the home of the brave has many of us cowering in fear. Many stand ready to emulate these police officers and will gladly jump into kill-or-be-killed mode at a moment’s notice. It is indeed a frightening time to be living in America.
There may be no way to come to peace with the senseless killings that have occurred at the hands of police officers. But we can compel our local police chiefs to provide more adequate training for people who are allowed to walk around with deadly weapons. De-escalation training has worked well in Las Vegas, lowering their police shootings by 36%, and with Florida being the state with the 3rd highest count of police-related deaths, we would be wise to consider such training here in Sarasota.