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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Opinion

Law enforcement needs a makeover


Law enforcement needs a makeover

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The events of 2020 sparked a nationwide conversation on the way police officers respond to calls while on duty. After the killings of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people, the use of force has been called into question.

In 2021 alone, Daunte Wright, 20, and Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, were both shot and killed by police who were responding to situations where no guns were present. In Wright’s case, he had no weapon at all.

These two instances alone serve as evidence that police officers need another approach when trying to apprehend offenders, and they aren’t unique occurrences. Law enforcement across the U.S. needs an overhaul of old practices.

In the past 12 months, 970 people have been shot and killed by the police. That’s just over 80 people a month. 

Although some of these deaths might’ve been the result of a truly dangerous situation for police, there’s still a number of people who have died for nonviolent offenses. Those instances are enough to warrant some changes in the way officers respond to conflict on the job.

Law enforcement should protect peace in the communities in which they serve. Citizens call on them with the expectation that they will have their emergent issues addressed, and they deserve to not fear that someone will die as a result of a 911 call.

In Wright’s case, a traffic stop and an arrest warrant led to his untimely death. After struggling with the officers, officer Kim Potter said that she was using her taser but actually fired her gun at Wright. 

Potter’s mistake cost a young father his life and a mother her beloved son. Potter — a 26-year veteran — alleges she didn’t mean to shoot her gun. However, the incident makes it clear that the police force isn’t providing adequate training for high-stress situations.

It would be less surprising if a rookie officer made this mistake, but a seasoned officer should know the difference between a taser and a loaded handgun. In fact, anyone responsible for handling deadly weapons should be able to feel the difference. 

In the event of a mental health crisis, police are usually the first ones called to the scene. It’s very rare that EMS will respond without police present.

Unfortunately, police don’t receive the in-depth training on how to deal with people who suffer from mental health issues that a social worker or counselor might. According to NPR, 10 percent of police calls involve a person with mental illness.”

Police need to be able to recognize symptoms of mental health issues so they can react appropriately in high-stress situations. They shouldn’t be reaching for handcuffs or a weapon when someone clearly needs to be calmed down.

Abolishing the police is a big step that may take years to fully implement. In the meantime, adequate training and retraining are necessary to protect lives. 

If police truly care about public safety, they should welcome this change. Our lives depend on it.

Jordan Hart is a journalism junior who can be reached at [email protected]

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