A Chattanooga man was slain Tuesday hours after a national police group proposed standards for the use of force among departments in a country whose cops killed 963 people in 2016.
Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies killed Chris Sexton, 29 after a two-hour chase that ended in his being shot down in a fusillade of bullets in Soddy-Daisy near the tractor supply store.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
Mr. Sexton, who had a history of violent interactions among family members, had a weapon drawn when his pickup truck was forced to halt and he emerged from it. The encounter with sheriff’s deputies began when he was stopped in traffic under prospective charges of violating a protection order keeping him apart from members of his family.
The document calling for peacekeeping rather than militarized law enforcement comes a group of police lobbies such as Calea and the Fraternal Order of Police. The brief paper, “National Consensus Policy on the Use of Force,” is published by International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“It is the policy of this law enforcement agency to value and preserve human life,” the Tuesday document says. It describes de-escalation as “[t]aking action or communicating verbally or non-verbally during a potential force encounter in an attempt to stabilize the situation and reduce the immediacy of the threat so that more time, options, and resources can be called upon to resolve the situation without the use of force or with a reduction in the force necessary.”
The document, however, cedes much to the current paradigm that encourages civilian killings. What it gives to citizenry at one point, it takes back at another: “An officer is authorized to use deadly force when it is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.”
Deeper analysis: De-escalate
The new report echoes a much more detailed analysis in 2016 by Police Executive Research Forum whose report, “Guiding Principles on Use of Force,” proposes ways to avoid the slaughter of civilians who have done nothing to warrant capital punishment, but who may have mental health problems, act irrationally or hold a weapon of some kind.
One of every four people killed in a police encounter displayed signs of mental illness. Chuck Wexler and other writers of the 2016 study suggest protocols be instilled in officers and that department policies be altered to take quota pressure off officers so that they can give more time dealing with a de-escalation incident.
A person holding a knife, screwdriver, scissors may alarm a family member, who called police, whose officer kills the loved one. Such encounters happens a great deal in which officers claim to see an immediate and severe threat to themselves or others, and fire their service weapons.
In training cadets, incidents such as the 2014 hatchet attack against New York City police officers in Queens are presented to instill caution and fear in the trainees. In that attack, one officer was struck in the head and another in the arm before other cops shot and killed the attacker, the entire incident occurring in 7 seconds.
Fear of this sort of encounter keeps police on edge and makes them impatient. People who are developmentally disabled, addicted to drugs, autistic or mentally ill are shot down because of their erratic or threatening actions or words.
Mr. Wexler and his colleagues recommend ending the use of the “outdated concepts of the use of force continuum” and the so-called “21 foot rule” and the idea that police must draw a line in the sand “and resolve all situations as quickly as possible.”
New culture proposed
The 2016 paper says changing police culture will include several points. To quote the report:
➤ Telling our police officers that sometimes it’s best to tactically reposition themselves in order to isolate and contain a person, and not to “draw a line in the sand.”
➤ That it’s often preferable to take as much time as needed to safely resolve an incident, and not feel compelled to force a quick (and potentially dangerous) resolution, in order to get back on the radio and race to the next call.
➤ That engaging a subject in calm and constructive conversation and asking open-ended questions are usually more productive than barking the same commands again and again, and that it’s usually best if one officer is designated to communicate with a mentally ill person.
➤ That intervening with a fellow officer who seems on the verge of using excessive force is best for everyone involved.
➤ And it means matching performance evaluation systems and officer rewards with the actual goals of the department. If officers are told that it is often preferable to slow a situation down, they should not be evaluated solely according to how many calls for service they handle and how quickly. Officers traditionally receive awards for accomplishments such as taking a violent armed criminal off the street. Moving forward, officers should also be recognized for efforts such as talking a suicidal person into safety and life-altering mental health care.