Saturday, December 6, 2014

Is use of lethal techniques by police in every case justified?

Within few days after much debated grand jury decision in Michael Brown shooting case, another similar decision in Eric Garner case fueled this debate once more and created widespread protests all over USA. In this case also a person who didn't commit very serious crime died because of show of excessive force by police officer. One can definitely debate whether chokehold used by Daniel Pantaleo was necessary or not but the truth is we lost one life and no one seems to be taking responsibility for that. Apart from the issue that people from certain race normally face more aggressive behavior from police there is another very serious issue about how police deal with arrests. The question which comes to my mind is, is the use of lethal techniques by police to arrest people in each and every case justified? May be in most of the cases no one gets seriously injured but what about cases like Eric Garner where people not only get seriously injured but loose their life? Police have no clue about the medical condition of the person whom they are trying to arrest, there is no way to get that information in advance so wouldn't it be wise to anticipate for the worst and act accordingly.

As I mentioned in my post related with Michael Brown shooting police officer or for that matter any law enforcement agency's job is a tough job. Every day they have to face unpredictable and many times dangerous situations. They are trained to protect themselves as well as innocent people around them but I think they are also trained to act with severity against people who break the law or don't follow their instructions. This severity then crosses the limit on some occasions which result in tragic incidents like Eric Garner's death. I don't think that playing the blame game or debating who is at fault would solve this problem. No doubt that guilty should be tried in court if law but I think in current system it is very difficult to point out who is at fault. major reforms in police training and protocols are needed. This should be followed with public awareness campaign, these things look like only viable options which can help to avoid such instances. When I was discussing this case with my son he told me that in some places authorities are trying to tell officers that try to 'talk them down don't take them down'. This sounds like a good idea where not so serious crimes (like stealing, shoplifting, etc.) are involved. If talking with the concerned person to convince him/her to follow police orders can save some lives then I think it should be considered as a first option. After all police department's job is to eliminate or reduce the crime from society not to eliminate all people who break the law. If crime can be reduced without hurting people then this approach should be tried but at the same time public awareness campaign also should be carried out to educate people on how to behave with police. These reforms or changes have to be a two way process, blaming only one section (police) is not going to help. Many people just panic or get scared and do many things which they may not do normally and this creates problems for them as well as for police. If people understand that police is there to protect them and not to harm them then I think they should follow the orders and cooperate. 

Both these events, Michael Brown's shooting and Eric Garner's death are very sad and tragic. Both these tragedies could have been avoided by use of some patience and restraint on police's part but I think they are not trained to do that. I am not expert in law or police department regulations but in both cases grand jury didn't think that any illegal or wrong act was committed by police officer. But if we look at countrywide protest against both these decisions then it is clear that people don't agree with this. May be as per present law of respective states nothing illegal or criminal activity was performed by concerned police officers but the fact is that two people lost their lives and this needs serious introspection and some corrective measures. I hope these incidents start serious debate to look for ways to eliminate occurrence of such instances rather than violent protests or blame game which will make matter even worse. Every human life irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or nationality is precious and every possible attempt should be made to save it. Police's job is to protect people and not to harm them. We all should also recognize and appreciate that they are doing a tough job of protecting citizens from bad elements of society. They are required to use lethal techniques while dealing with hard core criminals but these techniques should not be considered as the only option to deal with every law and order situation. At the same time citizens have some responsibilities along with their rights. They need to help police rather than making their job more difficult. I think if both people and police understand each other, try to build a bond of trust then we might be able to avoid such instances. I hope concerned authorities take these incidents seriously and devise some action plan which can help to resolve this issue.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. We Must Stop Police Abuse of Black Men
2. It Wasn’t Just the Chokehold
3. Protesters Fill the Streets Across the Country Over Decision in Eric Garner Case
4. Deadly Force, in Black and White

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