TO REDUCE VIOLENCE, PROTECT POLICE

Police are being assaulted every 110.3 seconds and 144 Police Officers were killed in 2018.  There were 998 Citizens shot by Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) in 2018. 

This level of violence will continue as long as we prescribe to impractical laws, outdated policing practices and ignore the mental health issues associated with Police work.

In spite of the high incidences of violence between police and Citizens, there is presently a challenge to

(a) banning the use of bump stocks to transform ordinary guns into military grade weapons (Massachusetts – ban on bump stocks);

(b)Red Flag laws HR 1177 to confiscate or delay the issuance of guns to persons suspected of being mentally ill and/or a danger to themselves or others; and

(c) the elimination of the requirement to have a license to carry a concealed weapon or having to notify Police that you are carrying a concealed weapon (Ohio Bill 174).

Opposing  the Red Flag law and supporting concealed weapon carry legislation would increase LEO’s risk to harm and their need to use excessive and fatal force to protect themselves.  Also, police would have the right to assume that all Citizens represent potential danger and that the use of excessive force is necessary for self-defense against a threat from Citizens, real or perceived.   

These laws either decrease or increase violence between Police and the Public and have significant implications to improve trust between the two.

The violence using firearms in the U.S. is epidemic claiming 30,000 lives annually.  Drug addiction is epidemic, treatment for mental illness is minimal.   There should not be any legislation or policies that advocates access to guns that would increase risk of violence to Police and the Public (i.e., schools, places of worship and work).

Emotions of stress, fear and anger play a significant role in the violence between Police and the Public.

Historically Police have been perceived to be perpetrators of brutality and abusive behavior against certain segments of the population, especially in communities of color.  While it is true that there are LEOs who abuse their authority, the vast majority of Police do their best to serve and protect the Public from danger and harm, honorably

Citizens cannot be absolved from their share of responsibility for the negative relations between the Police and the Public.

However, in most instances, it is the law-abiding Citizens, rather than criminals, who feel that Police are unfairly selecting them to enforce the law because of their race, religion and/or sex, in violation of their legal rights. 

These Citizens often express disrespectful facial expressions, language and behaviors which frequently result in Police use of excessive force. 

Politicians (Mayors, City Managers, City Council members) also have a major responsibility to provide proper resources to help protect Police.  As Legislators, they should propose and enact laws that protect rather than further endanger the Police in the conduct of their work. 

Police should not have to choose between adhering to the law and risk becoming the victim of violence or violating the law in order to protect themselves from harm. Citizens should not feel protected by the Constitution or law when resisting the instructions of an armed Police officer at a traffic stop, who may justifiably be in fear of his/her life. 

It would make it easier and safer for everyone if laws are created that are consistent with the sentiments and mental stress that both Police and Citizens experience when in contact with each other rather than having Citizens asserting “Rights beyond Reason” in the dangerous reality of the moment.

The idea that LEOs feel fear for being exposed to uncertainty at a traffic stop, robbery, hostage situation, or depressed after a fatal shooting should not be viewed by Police Leadership as a weakness or criteria for questioning the officer’s suitability for the job.

The stress that Police are subjected to are unique, extreme and constant. They require better understanding from the Public and support from Police leadership and Politicians

Some fundamental changes that need to be considered are as follows:

  1. More has to be done to protect the safely and well being of Law Enforcement Officers and thereby reduce the need for Police to use excessive and fatal force.
  2. Legislators should enact laws that minimize, rather than increase LEO’s exposure and risk to violence and harm.
  3. Police leadership should dispense with the mantra that exposure to death and harm are an unavoidable part of police work without trying to explore options that may reduce LEOs risk to harm.
  4. Training needs to include making a distinction between being courageous, taking unnecessary risk and using unnecessary, excessive and fatal force.
  5. Citizens need to be educated to understand the stress and mental disposition that LEOs function under, and the limitations of the law for immediate protection from the mutual violence they, and Police are exposed to when in contact with each other.
  6. *There needs to be a major effort to provide mental health support specially crafted for LEOs and available 24/7.

Money should allocated in budgets to provide LEOs with the best equipment and support necessary for them to their job effectively and safely.

As a society, we have a practical and moral obligation to do everything possible to make LEOs feel safe in doing their job, so that the Public will feel safer in receiving their services.

We cannot completely eliminate the danger associated with being a LEO, but we can avoid introducing laws that increase their risk to danger and harm.  We can also recognize the extreme danger of their work and provide them with mental health support consistent with the unique stress and emotions they experience on a daily basis.

Some departments may not be able to do everything that needs to be done, but we can definitely improve upon the status quo, moreover,  “We should not let what we cannot do stop us from doing what we can.”

  1. Theodore Brown, Ph.D. H.S.P.P.

Clinical Psychologist