A Procedural Point

I’m going out on a limb to make two assumptions. The first is police procedures in major departments across the United States are pretty much the same. Second, those procedures are put in place to limit fatal encounters.

That said, I’m remembering the policeman who stopped Philando Castile did so because he matched an armed bank robber’s description. Let’s put aside said description was a black man with a broad nose. Kobe Bryant and post-surgery Michael Jackson aside, such a generic description entitles a cop to pull over the vast majority of black men on the street. But the real point is St Paul, MN police procedure when stopping an allegedly armed suspect is as described here:

“That was not the way to conduct a felony stop,” said Michael Quinn, a retired Minneapolis police sergeant and chair of the Law Enforcement Advisory Board at Inver Hills Community College.

“A felony stop,” Quinn said, “would’ve put the officers behind the car, commands from the speaker in their car typically, or yelling if they had to and have the person get out of the car, with their hands visible, walk back at least a safe distance to get away from the car and then take custody of that person.”

In North Carolina, the police say they saw Keith Scott carrying a gun as he went to his car, then got in, at which point they approached the vehicle. There are two possibilities. Scott was armed, or the police planted a ‘throw-away’ weapon in his dead hand. Without video evidence, there is no way to determine which occurred, although the latter option is not just something from a cheap movie.

Regardless, if police did believe they saw a weapon in Scott’s hand, why would they stand in the open when confronting him? I find it difficult to believe procedure in Charlotte is significantly different from St Paul.

Putting themselves in harms way is a police officer’s duty, but only when necessary. According to common sense police procedures, which are apparently ignored as much as the need for common sense gun laws, neither Castile nor Scott’s shooting was necessary. Video has conclusively shown us Terence Crutchers’ death was also unnecessary.

The question is, why are there no serious consequences for disregarding critical aspects of police training? Why do officers whose negligence costs a life keep their jobs? Oklahoma has it right. A police officer should be held accountable when killing a suspect needlessly, even if, as may be the case with Keith Scott, the victim was an armed criminal.

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