Keeping Police Safe

When I was a senior in high school, I got to participate in police training. As far as I know, our high school drama students were the only high school group anywhere doing this — it was usually done by professional actors — but our drama teacher had clout and we got to do this as high school students. I don’t mean that we trained to be police. I mean that we helped to train new police officers.

We went to the police academy and we staged some improvisational scenes, and the police cadets had to respond.  I remember my scene very well. I had set my roommate up on a date, and he had raped her.  When the police responded, I was to be over-protective of her. That’s exactly what I did.  There were no women police.  I didn’t want to leave her alone with a man.  I was on edge. The job of the police was to de-escalate. But this was training. They weren’t perfect yet.  Eventually, the cadet had me up against the wall in a half-nelson.  Even though I’d never raised a hand against him.

But you know, the cadets in this class, they had the opportunity, in a controlled setting, to evaluate what they were doing.  Sure, this guy had me up against the wall. But this wasn’t out on the street. He wasn’t really going to arrest me. He didn’t have any real weapons on him.  Perhaps he learned something. I hope so.

Last year, we learned that the city of Miami was using mugshots of black men for target practice (Miami police used mugshots of black men for target practice).  In case you were wondering what the police might have been learning from this type of training, this week, a Miami police officer shot Charles Kinsey, a caretaker (who happens to be a black ma) at a group home who was working with an autistic man who had wandered away and into the street. Kinsey was lying on his back with his hands in the air (as ordered by the police) at the time that he was shot. When asked why he shot at Kinsey, the officer responded, “I don’t know.” I don’t know? That’s not good enough. Perhaps it had something to do with all that target practice shooting at the faces of black men. I’m just hypothesizing.

And just this week at the RNC Circus, another Sheriff Clark (and seriously, what is it about Sheriffs named Clark?) went off about how Black Lives Matter is all about being anti-police and how we should all be worried about Blue Lives Matter.  Um….yeah. Black Lives Matter is not anti-police.  It doesn’t have to be either or. In fact, if we want to make it even safer for police, we’re going to have to recognize that Black Lives Matter. How can I explain this better?

Do you know anyone who thinks the police DON’T have a difficult job? OK. I think we can pretty much all agree on that. It’s a hard job, and it’s potentially dangerous.  But it’s MORE dangerous if people fear the police. If we learn to fear the police, then, just as Yoda said, fear will lead to hate.

We can keep escalating. It’s an option. More and more people will learn to fear and distrust the police. But as I write this, 599 people have been killed by the police in the U.S. so far this year.  Five hundred ninety-nine.  And Native Americans are nearly 3.6 times as likely to be killed by police (per capita) than whites, and blacks are nearly 2.5 times as likely to be killed.

Perhaps it’s time, instead of escalating, that we teach de-escalation. Perhaps everyone, including the police, would be safer, if police shed all the military armor and weaponry and instead got back into the communities.  Because just maybe, if we started to see each other as actual people, then maybe we would be less inclined to shoot 12-year-olds with bb-guns, or men lying on their backs with their hands in the air. And then maybe, if the police weren’t shooting people all the time, then people wouldn’t be so hyper vigilant around the police. And then everyone would be safer.

That’s my mite. That’s all I’ve got.



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