The Need to Educate

Though a wise man might say it's unwise to form a judgment of an incident before all the facts have been assembled and processed, I've read and seen enough of the police shooting--of yet another black man--in Charlotte to defy wisdom for the sake of expressing my opinion. Having watched the video recording made by the victim's wife, what I see is yet another case of police ineptitude.

Their ineptitude is twofold: first, why were police cars surrounding the man's truck? He was parked outside his apartment complex to pick up his son from school. The police had arrived to issue a warrant to someone who lived in the complex. Why did they bother to confront a man who had every right to sit in his truck? Second, if it's true, as his wife said, that her husband suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury, shouldn't the police have altered their approach? Perhaps the problem is they didn't listen to the wife--and therein lies the problem.

Do police receive training in active listening? Or in how to negotiate with people, especially someone who is mentally disturbed? Are they trained in cultural sensitivity and tolerance? Do they learn how to de-escalate potential violent situations, as opposed to provoking them through aggression? Is the word "diplomacy" ever used in their education? Are they, in fact, even required to receive an education about the basic tenets of what is morally just and humane?

I ask these questions because the police in Charlotte appeared to exhibit none of these skills before shooting and killing Mr. Scott. It matters little to me whether he was holding a gun or a book or neither of those--as so far the evidence has been inconclusive. Someone among the police there should have had the sense to listen to the wife, calm her down, and have her assist them in getting her husband to comply with what they were asking. At the very least, the police should have de-escalated the problem by backing away and waiting until the situation naturally resolved itself. After all, they were not surrounding the car of a man who had recently detonated two bombs in New York City. They were surrounding the car of a man who was there to pick up his son!

One would think that with the number of police shootings of black men in the past two years, we would see a change in police behavior and tactics. How many more killings is it going to take before this change becomes a reality? Entrusted by Americans "to protect and serve" our communities, policemen must learn to communicate properly--with respect, rather than in a bullying, demeaning manner--and problem solve when necessary. The police in Charlotte failed to problem solve. They, in fact, didn't even try. If they failed because they don't possess the requisite skills, then they need to get the skills through comprehensive training, which should include specific role playing in how to de-escalate potential violent encounters and avoid using their guns to kill someone, when the situation doesn't warrant it.

The necessity for their education has never been greater.

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