stepping sideways from police violence

I was deeply saddened this morning to learn of the Dallas sniper shootings during Black Lives Matter protest last night. I was upset that human beings (police officers) were murdered and also at the potential social impact of such violence (in maligning the Black Lives Matter movement, though I was glad that leaders of that movement have quickly denounced the shootings).

I would never condone that kind of violence, but I can somewhat understand what might have driven someone to that extreme. The rash of killings by police and the general lack of accountability could drive some to rage and despair.  How would it feel to realize that you might be murdered by a police officer at a routine traffic stop?  I’m white, so that’s very unlikely for me, but not so for many Americans of color; I can imagine living with that prospect could be so devastating as to feel completely adrift and hopeless.

What I don’t understand is the excuse-making for this kind of state-sanctioned gun violence (& corresponding lack of accountability), where pundits say that the officers may be young/stressed and have just a split-second to decide, so mistakes happen.  This is resting on a faulty foundation – that gun usage is somehow necessary.  It’s just not.

If guns are necessary at all, they certainly aren’t necessary for any <5 foot encounter, such as a routine traffic stop.  Why aren’t officers using non-lethal weapons, such as tasers or pepper spray to temporarily incapacitate their suspect?  Why is the gun the first choice?  Even in a shootout, wouldn’t it make more sense to use tranquilizer darts or similar rather than lethal guns?

This is an absurd situation. When law enforcement relies on lethal weapons as their #1 defense/offense in a very dangerous job, with lots of stress and adrenaline, it’s only to be expected that they’ll be killing folks.

I’d like to see police officers outfitted with the best body armor and non-lethal weapons, so as to minimize the chances of inury to themselves or others.  Then we could make sure that deaths by police are rare and always warrant serious investigation, where manslaughter or murder charges are the most likely outcome.  Law enforcement should not be killing anyone, except in the most rare and truly accidental (shooting a gun at someone and killing them is hardly an “accident”) circumstances.


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