Sadly, across this country we are witnessing police agencies morphing into agents of suppression and intimidation while abandoning the goal of being public servants to our citizens. Increasingly, families across this nation experiencing a family crisis must decide if calling the police for assistance creates an even greater threat to them and their loved ones. Too often, parents must watch in horror as the military veteran suffering from PTSD, a daughter having an adverse reaction to illegal or legal drugs, or a mentally challenged brother is shot dead within seconds or minutes after the police arrive.
The common justification police give for killing these unarmed and mentally disturbed citizens is they failed to comply with the officers’ instructions, or they lunged at me. We know there is strength in numbers and the police will never dispatch one officer to handle a call involving a mentally challenged person. However, it is becoming too common to see an officer without any sign of imminent danger charge in alone, like Rambo, and then fatally shoot an unarmed, noncompliant mental patient even as other officers are arriving at the scene. We then get the standard police explanation. Unfortunately, too many of us accept this idea of police fear as reasonable justification for their use of deadly force. If you are afraid of water, don’t become a lifeguard. If you are horrified by the sight of blood, don’t become a paramedic. If you are terrified by upset and distraught people, don’t become a police officer.
We spend billions of dollars annually on police equipment and training, yet at the first sign of a struggle too many of these supposedly professionally trained officers seem to only know one response. Their belts are impressively adorned with the latest gadgets; pepper spray canisters, metal collapsible batons and Tasers, yet when confronted by an unarmed citizen many quickly whip out their firearm. I personally witnessed three incidents: a mentally challenged man with a large butcher knife and a 5 pound bag of flour, tossing flour at demons and charging and lunging at citizens and police. He was not killed; nonlethal force was used. An individual running toward a police officer with a 12 gauge shotgun refused to drop it after several commands. He was not killed and was later identified as a store owner who had been victimized. A man holding a large hook blade knife pressed to a woman’s throat. He also was not killed. Each of these persons could have been legally killed with no questions asked. However, the officer placed a higher priority on saving a life than taking one.
We expect and demand the apprehension of individuals committing criminal acts however, we must stop pretending that all police officers are perfect and admit that a few do not even belong in that profession. The real problem is that police unions, most police officials and many elected officials refuse to weed out these known misfits. They choose instead to ignore, conceal or attempt to justify their misbehavior doing a great disservice to the many dedicated officers who serve. Also, some people who say they must have asked for it by what they wore, what they said or where they were, tend to enable these rogue officers. As citizens, we must firmly demand a higher level of competence and professionalism from our police officers, and also begin to hold police administrators and our local elected officials directly accountable for these senseless and unnecessary police killings.
Hudman S. Evans Sr. is a resident of Milledgeville.