Sunday, September 15, 2013

POLICE SHOOTINGS: ENDEMIC OR EPIDEMIC


Rotten luck meets stupid cops!


24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell wrecked his car in an accident early Saturday morning. He managed to crawl out the back window of the vehicle and walk up the road to his neighbor’s house seeking assistance. The sight of a bloodied, incoherent man pounding on her door led the neighbor to call the police fearing she was going to be robbed.


The Police arrived, thinking there were dealing with a potential break and enter or assault. Thinking help had arrived, Ferrell ran towards them. The police thinking he was “charging them” attempted tase him. The taser failed to bring him down so the officer fired several rounds into Ferrell killing him!

A police statement indicated that the shooting of Ferrell was excessive. The officer has been charged with manslaughter.


Last month18-year-old Sammy Yatim was shot and killed by Toronto Police on a streetcar. The officer was charged with second-degree murder.  There is the he 2007 case of Paul Boyd who was shot eight times — including in the head — by Vancouver police. Police alleged he was swinging a chain but video did not collaborate the official version. A giant of a man, Boyd was a six-foot-four and bipolar. Last February, police shot Michael Eligon, who fled Toronto East General Hospital wielding scissors. There is the case of the police shooting of 45-year-old Steve Mesic on June 7th in Hamilton. Mesic had signed himself out of a psychiatric emergency department that morning. He was walking in traffic.   

Closer to home, a pair of fatal police shootings in 2002 led to a judicial inquiry. Norman Reid, 44, was shot to death in his yard in Little Catalina and Darryl Power, 23, was killed outside his mother's home in Corner Brook. Judge Donald Luther offered 40 recommendations including that police officers have to be better trained. 

I have not been able to find any statistics on these type of shootings for Canada.


The shootings raises questions about the training of ordinary police. How many unarmed people have been shot and killed by police? What lethal threat could an armed and trained policeman feel from these victims? Is this a manifestation of self-righteous egos?


On the other hand, police are human, they make mistakes, they get scared, they have to make on-the-spot decisions, which can have lethal outcomes.  How much training can prepare you for real-life situations, shadows and misperceptions? I doubt anyone with a badge goes to work hoping for a chance to use lethal force, to bag a trophy! 


Is it fair to judge these officers with the benefit of hindsight? Is it unrealistic a trained police officer, facing a perceived threat to their life or another individual, to explore every considerable outcome, variable and option in a situation that may demand split-second reactions?

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