Ethics & Religion
August 25, 2016
How To Reduce Police Confrontations
By Mike McManus
Confrontations between police and the public seem to be getting worse
and worse. After Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, MO in
2014, Cleveland police killed a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, who was
playing with friends using a toy gun. Police were only 10 feet away and
should never have shot him.
Akai Gurley, an unarmed 33-year-old man was shot in the chest and killed
by a rookie cop inside a Brooklyn stairwell. Police said it was an
accident. In South Carolina, Levar Jones was stopped by police for a
seat-belt violation. He was told to get out of the car, and then to show
his license. When Jones reached inside his car, he was shot in the hip.
"What did I do? I just got my license. You said get my license." In this
case, the officer was fired.
Recent fatal shootings by police in Minnesota, Louisiana and Wisconsin
have reignited debate.
What can be done to halt these needless deaths by police?
In 1994 Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement
Act, that mandated state Attorneys General begin studying and reporting
on excessive use of force by police. Soon after, the Bureau of Justice
Statistics developed studies measuring police behavior - not just
reports by local police, but with interviews of citizens. What does 20
years of data show?
First, the number of people having interactions with the police dropped
from 45 million in 2002 to 40 million in 2011. Some 88% of those stopped
by police said they thought the police acted properly, as did 83% of
blacks. Since 1991, the peak of crime in New York City, the number of
yearly shooting incidents by NYPD officers has declined by more than
However, The Washington Post reported on Monday that the Justice
Department's investigation of Baltimore police resulted in a rebuke for
"an entrenched culture of discriminatory policing." It identified a core
failure for identifying troubled officers "existed in name only."
For example, one officer was criminally charged after he shot at a car
as it drove toward him. He had been involved in two prior shootings, had
a history of complaints for harassment and excessive force. "The
Department failed to respond to those alerts in a way that could have
uncovered the officer's condition or otherwise allowed for an
intervention," Justice reported.
Justice stated that numerous departments failed to use early
intervention systems effectively. For example, the Newark Police
Department abandoned its early interventions system after only one year
and lost track of 100 officers who had been flagged for monitoring.
Similarly, the New Orleans Police Department's system was "outdated and
essentially exists in name only."
However, there are two broad answers. First, an early intervention
system needs to be put in place, with rigorous oversight by police
leaders. This was accomplished in Minneapolis, New Orleans and
Miami/Dade. The result is astonishing - a two-thirds reduction of
citizen complaints only a year later in each city.
More typical is what happened in Newark. Of 1,000 officers, 100 were
identified for monitoring, but the department could not provide
documents on what, if anything, happened to them. In 2008, Justice told
Austin that its criteria were so open-ended that officers were not being
flagged for any violations.
The Post reported in the town of Harvey, outside of Chicago, the
71-officers were investigated by Justice in 2012. Justice told Harvey to
create an early intervention system that included lawsuits against
However, by March, 2014 a federal lawsuit was filed against Harvey and
Officer Richard Jones, 47. Kwamesha Sharp said Jones came to her house,
wrestled her to the ground, rolled her onto her back an d "kneed her in
the abdomen" causing her to miscarry a baby. She was arrested for
battery and resisting arrest - for which she was later acquitted.
Harvey paid $500,000 to settle a federal lawsuit.
However, in January of this year, Jones and Harvey faced another federal
lawsuit in which a 20-year-old woman, who said she met Jones in 2015,
was pulled her over for driving without a license. He then led her to a
weedy gravel lot where he raped her. Jones resigned from the department
What's the other solution? San Diego put cameras on the uniforms of
their police. In the last six months of 2014, complaints against
officers dropped 40.5% compared to the first six months. And the need
for officers to use force plunged 46.5%.
Early intervention with oversight and cameras offer hope.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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