There are a great many things that are different in small towns from big cities. The topic for today is policing.
I grew up watching Andy Griffin of Mayberry fame. While his character is based on a true life character, most people believe a policeman with strong ties to the community is a fiction. Not true. Sheriffs in small towns are elected, and, as a result, are known by the community they serve. More importantly, they know the members of their community. I believe that knowing the people in the communities that the police serve has more to do with how criminals are handled in the smaller communities than they are in the cities.
When was the last time you heard of a small town sheriff rolling up to a report of a kid playing with a toy gun and opening fire in three seconds? Never. In a small town, the sheriff would have likely rolled up, told the kid to quit acting a fool or he’d tell his Momma. The sheriff would probably mention the kid’s Momma’s name, just to drive home his point.
I get it, we don’t all live in small towns where everybody knows everybody’s name. That said, I feel a national effort to humanize suspects is in order. Kind of a “Black Lives Matter”, with a subset of, “don’t dehumanize any of us”. The dynamics of policing change when you view a “perp”, or my favorite, “un-sub”, as a daddy, mommy, son or daughter. The preservation of life should be the absolute first order of business for the police, even if it means that occasionally they’ll get their uniform a little dirty. A life should have a higher value than a cleaning bill, right?
The police are so over-equipped with gadgetry that is designed to disable suspects, I think they feel cheated if don’t get to use their toys. It has been reported that there have been over 1,000 deaths due to tasering in the United States. What do all of these dead subjects have in common? They were all unarmed and most of them were people of color.
Are there other methods available to police that are possibly less lethal to use? Of course. Most countries use the baton as the method of choice. The baton allows the officer to apply a proportional amount of force to a situation while not running the risk of killing a suspect who might be endangered by other methods, such as pepper spray. Since 1990, there have been 60 in-custody deaths in which pepper spray was a contributing factor. In-custody deaths. Pepper spray is not just an irritant to an asthmatic, it’s a death sentence.
To what can we attribute the over use of force in America by the police? I believe the police are scared to death. I’m not ready to cynically say that they all are a bunch of neo-Nazis. I think they’re scared, and out of that fear, overreact. Do they have reason to overreact? In my opinion, and a study done by the CDC, no.
According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, “In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013) ” Let that one soak in for a while. You are three times more likely to be killed by gunfire, if you are a preschooler than if you are a policeman.
President Biden recently pointed out that since the year 2000 more school children have died due to gun violence than the total of military and police killed combined. Something is clearly out of whack here, and the answer is not that we need to up armor the kids.
To me, the answer is the sense of community the police officer needs to have, the training in non-lethal methods, and strong robust gun control measures to be enacted. It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t move billions of dollars worth of military weapons to the police, but it could work. It works everywhere else. Don’t spare the rod, and save the child.