The Policy Not People of the Excessive Force Debate

The video of Scout Shultz, the Georgia Tech student is baffling.  The actions of law enforcement should not be so predictable that suicide by cop can be an option.  Is lethal force, excessive force, shoot-to-kill, the standard we want for American law enforcement?  Are there other reasonable options for law enforcement in 2017?  The case at Tech is intertwined with mental illness and other serious and complex matters.  Just looking at the use of force by police issue would be an incomplete cause and effect analysis.  However, intelligent minds can see how a common-sense change in law enforcement policy would address losing Scout as much as it would address the issues exposed by those protesting after Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.

International Association of the Chiefs of Police define use of force as the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.”  However, for some Americans it appears that the current policy encourages law enforcement to use lethal force against all targets as a first reaction.  Whether the target is near or far, running towards or away from the officer, whether there is certainty around a weapon or not, or proof that any crime has been committed, officers use of force policies focus on the subjective belief of the officers.  The protestors want policies that help to properly evaluate if an officer’s subjective experiences make him or her more likely to use force when it is not necessary.

But with the advent of social media, in cases like Scout and others, more than compliance was the goal or result.  The result was death.  If compliance is the goal why would a person who had little opportunity or means to kill a law enforcement officer be gunned down with force far more than necessary?  The increase of technology and weapon choice, the advanced training of the officers, and the protective gear provided to them, makes it necessary we re-visit the training of officers to shoot to kill philosophy.  Talk to any law enforcement officer and they will tell you the television versions of shooting a suspect in the leg or shooting to disarm or disable is not how they are trained.  The protestors in America are asking that WE re-evaluate training policies that doing prioritize preserving lives of officers and citizens. 

This policy and training is created by the same brave officers who put their lives on the line, therefore of course the policy is written to protect the people who write them.  The protestors are asking Americans to remember that many American laws and policies were built by people of the past who had more than safety in mind.  No one can deny that racism and prejudice was the motivate for many of our forefathers.  Therefore, the policies and rules they promulgated should be re-examined.  In many instances, the origin of these laws is not the fault of anyone living today.  However, Americans now living cannot continue to ignore this history by simply building on top of rules that started with a biased foundation.  We must ask ourselves, “is it possible that this policy of shoot to kill unfairly occurs in minority communities because that is how they were designed?”  We can disagree with how these laws came into existence and still agree it could not hurt if we took a closer examination of the policy of shoot to kill.

Re-examining the policies is not disrespectful to law enforcement as it helps to protect them from abuse, litigation, and lingering questions.  Not re-examining the policies however will continue to divide our country.  If those who oppose excessive force are wrong, then law enforcement actions are validated.  If those who believe lethal force is the best first choice for law enforcement are wrong, we may save many lives and unify our country by fixing the policies.

People are angry because Americans can look at the video of Scout and see that he and fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was running away from the officers, could have been disabled with a non-lethal force.  Both Scout and Edwards could be brought to justice if crimes were being committed.  Conversely, they could have gone home to their mothers if they were alive and no crimes had occurred.  Instead we are left with questions, innuendo and assumptions about both.  Their families are left without lives that were valuable to them.  Alton Sterling and Walter Scott, both in positions where no immediate harm could come to the officers, could have been brought before the courts to address whether or not a crime occurred.  The officers who killed these men should not have been the judge, jury, and executioner.

Somehow, the discussion moved away from the policy of excessive force.  The conversation changed from discussing revising and updating our police policies and instead we are discussing Kaepernick and his knees.  Kaepernick knelt because of his personal beliefs about excessive force and other American issues.  The policy issue got lost or coopted for many other things.  As recently as this week we again have been doubled trumped.  I remember watching the republican debates and yelling as Trump got the entire panel off topics of substance and into unwinnable divisive battles.  I mentioned it in my political commentary how easily Trump controlled the narrative.  Now here I am on FB sharing Trump’s videos calling people SOBs solely for exercising their 1st amendment right.

Forget Trump and Kaepernick and let’s evaluate our own real experiences right here in Georgia.  In many communities, stories about excessive force that were once shared around the dinner table are now on social media.  My own father had a Red Dog experience.  These men experience the terrifying moment when more force than necessary was used by a professional sworn to protect them.  Although they go home, it is not easy to shake having the firearm of a trained stranger being pointed at you, being roughed up while handcuffed, or being detained for extended periods. No crime had occurred but in some cases they were treated worse than Dillon Roof.  In 2017, people outside of Atlanta news stations heard about Scout because the internet and social media has torn down the artificial barriers that make this issue invisible to some.  Although it may be new to you, for many Americans it is the only America they know.

Most police are great people, but like all professions, there are some who are not.  Those bad cops must go!  Don’t allow the narrative to change to flags, knees, how to protest, or the NFL.   There has to be a way where we can all agree to re-evaluate how we train police. There is plenty of room in the middle to ensure we protect our first responders who put themselves on the line, give them the respect they need to do their job to protect all of us, while also ensuring we don’t lose equally important lives of citizens because of bad and antiquated policies.  We can make a policy that ensures our officers and our son’s all make it home each night if we focus on the policy and not the people!

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“…..give them the respect they need to do their job to protect all of us,” that just might be a good subject for some articles or positions by leaders. Too many are emboldened to push back on the cop, not just someone on the street but the crazy person on the plane or the traffic stop late at night……I advise mine to assume the cop had a bad day, the ego is out of control and I should be compliant until I can get away from him/her and deal with it on neutral turf. Most of the time they appreciate… Read more »


And yes, the GA Tech instance is baffling going by the press info.


“However, intelligent minds can see how a common-sense change in law enforcement policy would address losing Scout as much as it would address the issues exposed by those protesting after Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.” I am deeply offended by your conflating Eric Garner, Scout Schultz and Tamir Rice with Michael Brown. What happened to Garner, Schultz and Rice – despite their flaws – were outrages, as was the case with Philando Castile, Justine Diamond and John Crawford III. However, Michael Brown perpetrated a sustained, unprovoked violent attack on Darren Wilson during which he repeatedly tried to steal… Read more »


On point. I wish such reason and reasonableness would be the norm.