Dallas policing is a bridge to Black Lives Matter: Column

Before the assassination of five law enforcement officers in Dallas, the city had begun to build something wonderful — a new way of policing that embodies the principle that all lives matter. It is a policing style that recognizes the special vulnerabilities of both black lives and blue lives, and could be key to building connections between the two communities.
Thanks to deliberate changes in tactics, such as officers training in de-escalation techniques and using less-than-lethal force in situations where they’d previously be instructed to fire weapons, complaints about overly aggressive policing in Dallas had dropped from more than 150 in 2009 to fewer than 20 last year. And most dramatically, police shootings dropped too.
The root of the change, according to the Dallas Morning News, was aggressive and consistent re-training. Officers did not learn to de-escalate in classrooms. They practiced on the streets. Supervisors used footage from real-events — at least half of all department cars have dash cams, and many officers now have body video cameras — and came up with a set of de-escalation protocols that give officers more time (and more tools) to make judgments about whether to use force.
Time seems to be the key factor; no officer wants to get to the point where he or she has to decide in a split second whether the guy who is fishing through his pockets is reaching for a gun. The department wisely assumed that there will be moments during these confrontations when de-escalation techniques truly can work.
Something as basic as noise levels can affect the environment of a given situation. If officers all shout at the same time, that makes a suspect — hell, it makes anyone — really nervous. If an officer approaches that same suspect with open palms and a calm voice, the suspect will usually reciprocate
Not always, of course. Officers need to have back-up here, and they will still face those horrible moments when only their guts can be their guide.  But in Dallas, andincreasingly in other cities, officers have a goal: unless the suspect is armed with a gun, don’t try to end the situation quickly; try to prolong it. Don’t rush the suspect. Give him space and give him time. The more time the police have to de-escalate, the better the odds that the situation will end without anyone hurt or dying.
Other police departments are preparing to emulate Dallas. In San Francisco, a scandal involving racist text messages and the shooting in December of a knife-wielding young black man have frayed trust between the city and its police. The mayor and law enforcement officials are wrestling with the police union over a package of major reforms, including the implementation of de-escalation techniques.
Understandably, the strongest resistance to reform comes from police unions. Its members might be more vulnerable in certain instances, especially where criminals are determined to harm others. But in Dallas, assaults against the police have dropped significantly, too.
At the moment, this type of training is the best way to ensure that all lives matter. There is no greater challenge for police today than to bring to the street a set of practices that recognizes the unique vulnerability of certain communities to aggressive police tactics.
That vulnerability lies at the root of the Black Lives Matter protests.
If implicit racial bias still makes the lives of black men, women and children more threatened, then we owe their lives sustained attention. New police techniques and mindfulness help officers see suspects — or perhaps, confused people caught up in chaotic situations — as individuals. And although the evidence is tentative and still needs years of field-testing, it seems to work
Of course, the life of a police officer is more vulnerable than yours or mine. Becoming a police officer is a choice, and a job is not a racial classification, and we deliberately give police officers real power and privilege. There is no equivalence here. It will be harder to be black in America than to be a police officer in America for a long time to come, unfortunately.
Still, police officers are the first responders to scenes of mayhem, their lives inherently dangerous.
Perhaps this one commonality — a unique awareness of the fragility of life — can be the beginning, the cornerstone, of a bridge between reform-oriented police departments and the Black Lives Matter movement
Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/07/09/dallas-shooting-black-lives-matter-blue-lives-column/86862096/


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