Opinion: The problem isn’t just the police

Susan Bigelow
Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

What’s going on with the police in this country? If, like me, you’ve been alternately shocked and deeply saddened by the actions of police against protestors, journalists, and residents in Ferguson, Mo., then this is a question that demands an answer.

The current series of demonstrations and strong police reactions began when a police officer in Ferguson shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. There are many black voices out there talking about the racial aspect of this awful tragedy, and I strongly suggest you read some of them. Greg Howard’s powerful essay, “America is Not For Black People,” is a good place to start. There are many others.

But this isn’t just about one young man’s life stolen by police in one town, it’s about a bigger pattern that white America is finally waking up to. Some recent examples: a black man named John Crawford was shot dead in an Ohio Walmart because he was holding a toy air rifle. In South Dakota, an 8-year-old Rosebud Sioux girl was shot with a stun gun because police couldn’t convince her to put down a paring knife. In New York, a black man named Eric Garner was strangled by police who had him in a choke-hold.

Read the complete story at CT News Junkie.


One response to “Opinion: The problem isn’t just the police”

  1. John Frank sr

    As a retired police officer, I know police involved shootings are never as simple as the news media makes them sound. By the time a full investigation is completed and determinations made about what crimes were committed and by whom, the reporters have gone someplace else looking for headlines. Public demonstrations, led by the Al Sharptons, give a grieving community a chance to vent and the Sharptons a chance to get on network news. The laws on the use of force and the use of deadly force are pretty clear in CT and not that hard to follow most of time. When an officer reasonably believes he, or anybody, is in imminent danger of death or serious injury, he/she is authorized to use whatever it takes. Making such decisions, in fractions of seconds, is never easy. Living with the results of a bad decision is hard for the officer and the family of the victim. Nobody ever wants to believe a young son or brother brought it on himself and it is much easier to believe the officer made a bad decision and used too much force. There is a process to determine what crimes may have been committed and it is a very deliberate process. Nobody is ever happy with how long it takes. In most of the cases I was involved in investigating where the force used by an officer was an issue, the officer, at the time, was sure his life was in danger. The law does not require proof of that danger, only evidence of a “reasonable belief”. Lawyers make careers arguing over what constitutes reasonable belief, but, in most states, that is the only requirement to justify responding with deadly force. The tools available to the officer are not the issue, ever. The decision to use deadly force is the issue, the really hard part.

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