More shootings, more protests

Published 6:04 pm Saturday, September 24, 2016

Two more controversial, fatal shootings by police and more protests that follow. It’s a predictable pattern that America is too familiar with.

In both recent shootings, one in Tulsa and the other in Charlotte, police shot and killed someone when they appeared to ignore officers’ commands.

The officer who fired the fatal shots in Tulsa has been charged with manslaughter. A video of the incident appears to show Terence Crutcher with his hands raised before he was shot. He was walking away from the officer and towards his car before he was killed.

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In Charlotte, it’s less clear what exactly happened. As of Saturday afternoon police have not released video of the incident that led to Keith Scott’s death. His wife, however, released a cellphone video she captured of the incident.

She can be heard telling officers that he is not armed and begging them not to shoot him. Police can be heard telling him to drop a gun.

Police have insisted he had a gun. Witnesses insist he did not.  Officers clearly believe he was armed, given their commands to him during the incident. But did he present a threat to officers? That’s the question that will be disputed by Scott’s family members and the officers who were there.

Though police departments have changed policies or created new ones in an effort to reduce these incidents, they are still occurring. And, unfortunately, they likely will continue to happen in the near future.

Officers are faced with an extraordinarily difficult task that often places them in harm’s way. They often are in situations where their lives are in real danger. There are also times when they fear their lives are in jeopardy and they react in ways many of us struggle to understand.

The officer in Tulsa was obviously fearful, with the criminal complaint against her stating her fear resulted in unreasonable actions.

While her actions are clearly unreasonable and possibly criminal, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t acting out of real fear. The officers in Charlotte may have acted out of fear as well.

And until something changes with the way officers are trained and the way police departments interact with the public, fear will continue to drive a very small number of officers to act unreasonably.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers in this country will never find themselves in a situation that leads to a fatal shooting. But all officers need more and better training so they can overcome that basic human instinct to fight or flight. We count on officers not to do the latter. We owe them — and the public — the best training they can get to better handle the former.