As I look at what is happening to police and community relations in the last two years since the Michael Brown shooting in August of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, to the recent tragedy in Dallas last week and the several other attacks on law enforcement since, several factors and issues play out. While police-community relations will always remain a controversial and hot topic, as they have been for decades, it is important for both law enforcement and the community to be equally accountable for their actions.
People analyze and discuss the need for more community based policing, more dialogue, more restraint by law enforcement, more de-escalation of force, more training, more accountability, more transparency, and a host of other issues that law enforcement needs to do to improve these relationships.
As I analyze the facts of the various deadly officer involved shootings and other tragic events that have unfolded, I see some common denominators that no one talks about, yet it explains an overwhelming majority of these issues and problems.
After examining the facts of these incidents, and peeling back the rhetoric and innuendo, I see the following trends:
- The majority of these encounters start with a call for service involving a victim of a crime, someone who has been threatened, or suspicious actions by the party/suspect in question. This also includes traffic stops.
- Once law enforcement arrives on scene or conducts the traffic stop they are met with non-compliance, verbal abuse, and resistance by the suspect.
- The suspect is usually armed (gun, knife etc.) or attempts to disarm the officer of his or her weapon.
- The suspect attempts to flee or initiates an attack on the officer, which usually dictates how the encounter and incident will progress.
Unfortunately, the officer must take drastic action to protect himself and others against the suspect. Although the above mentioned items (more dialogue, restraint, and de-escalation of force etc.), have some benefits and are continually heard by law enforcement as areas it needs to address in order to improve police-community relations, none of them will correct or eliminate the violent behavior and aggressive actions taken by the suspect.
We continuously hear people allege racism and harassment during traffic stops and detentions. If this is the case then the smart person would follow the orders of the officer and later present their facts and file a formal complaint instead of resorting to violence.
Also, do we as a society, through our various past acts, rights and laws, allow people to believe they have a false sense of entitlement? When we immediately cite out and release demonstrators and protesters within hours of being arrested for blocking traffic resulting in the closure of freeways and highways, what message does that send? Should we be surprised that we have so many protests turning into violence and chaos? Should these same demonstrators be allowed to throw rocks and bottles at police, pull people from their vehicles, throw concrete and rocks through vehicle and business windows, and destroy and steal property? Is this a peaceful demonstration displaying a desire to improve police-community relations while endangering lives?
As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.