Police-public interaction should not end violently

Regarding the Aug. 15 Another Voice column by William J. Morgan Jr., Ph.D., “Police officers have a difficult task every day,” I know of no profession whose mantra is “go home alive at the end of their shift.” How do the professional self-interests trump the community’s?

I appreciate Morgan’s sentiment that police officers have a difficult task every day. Consider my experiences as a deputy county attorney in Coconino County, Arizona, working with law enforcement. I took a not-too-scientific survey of the Flagstaff Police and the Coconino County Sheriff’s departments and discovered police interventions resulted in an escalation of disturbances once police arrived on the scene.

Eighty percent of police and sheriff’s deputies on those forces had never fired their gun in the line of duty and none had been threatened to the point that they felt the need to use deadly force.

When we give individuals the power and legal authority to use deadly force in the name of the community, we need to be clear about what the community needs and wants. Most law enforcement functions are social service in nature. The most frequently utilized skills for law enforcement are people skills learned by studying psychology, sociology and social history. The ability to communicate with a diverse population with respect and empathy. A police officer should have all his wits about him. He should be well-rested, positive and fully engaged. The job is made more difficult and dangerous because of what the police introduce into the encounter.

I offer this picture to suggest that the military mode that is everywhere presented in law enforcement is simply wrong and is contributing to the urban strife we see in communities like Ferguson, Mo. Dialogue and communication with a professional (police officer) is preferable to restraint, force or use of weapons.

Eric Garner, the chokehold New York Police Department victim, did not have to die. There were other options available to the police.

Leonard G. Brown, JD., LLM