The mainstream media has run stories about encounters with law enforcement officers resulting in the officer shooting the civilian that cast these officers in a bad light before a full investigation is completed. Protesters, as well, parade out condemning the officer while portraying the civilian in a positive light despite evidence suggesting otherwise. The result has been communities viewing their law enforcement agencies as “rogue,” “racist,” or “using excessive force.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel returned early from his vacation in Cuba to announce reforms that will be implemented in the Chicago Police Department.
At a press conference on Wednesday, embattled Mayor Emanuel stated, “We must ensure our officers have the right tactics, the right training, the right technology to resolve tense situations safely and securely. It is about helping them realize the multitude of responses in tense situations.”
The mayor also announced that any officer involved in a shooting would now spend 30 days on desk duty instead of the current policy of three days in order to evaluate the officer’s fitness for duty. Plans also include doubling the number of tasers in service to 1,400 with appropriate training provided to officers on their use. Emanuel praised the black and Hispanic community caucuses for “pushing for tasers.”
Emanuel conveyed his desire for “Chicago Police Department to create more time and distance in these situations and other encounters to make environments safe and safer for all. We will improve communication between officers and individuals to make these encounters less confrontational and more conversational.”
“With the right policies, the right procedures, and the right practices, we can change our officers perspectives to help them ensure their own safety and the safety of others,” Emanuel suggested. “We want to ensure our officers are not just operating in either first gear or fifth gear. But to recognize the degrees in between so they can respond to appropriately to each individual situation, where force can be the last option, not the first choice.”
When one is talking about “improving communication” between two individuals, it normally requires both individuals to engage in learning effective communication techniques. Communication requires components of transmission and reception. A miscommunication on either end results in loss of the message resulting in misunderstandings. In tense situations, as Mayor Emanuel refers to these incidences, faulty communication could be disastrous.
The city of Chicago can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions to send their law enforcement officers to learn “effective communication techniques”; however, if the individual the officer is attempting to communicate with has poor communication skills, it is all in vain. So let’s look at the LaQuan McDonald case, which is where these new policies more than likely stemmed.
First, Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. McDonald was using a knife, breaking into vehicles. Police called for a taser as they made their way to the scene. Dashcam video showed McDonald walking away from the officers, refusing to stop, drop his weapon or follow instructions. The officer in this situation shot McDonald 16 times, which was excessive.
Why are officers using large magazine clips when civilians are unconstitutionally denied from doing so? Why would McDonald refuse to stop upon seeing the officers, or drop the knife or follow instructions?
It is common knowledge that police officers hold authority in situations when responding to a call. That authority should be exercised using good judgment, without excessive force, in a calm manner but with efficiency. In the video, McDonald appears to ignore police instructions and keep walking.
Here is where parents are responsible for teaching their children the appropriate behavior when in the presence of police officers. Since police officers hold authority, one should follow instructions when encountering police if they ask you to stop. It is not a good idea to ignore instructions especially when the officers are responding to a call. One should respond to police with courtesy, respect and the politeness one would show another individual. Challenging police with an “attitude” never bodes well. One can point out an alternative to the office using respect and courtesy. By the same token, police should respond in kind when encountering the public, unless the situation dictates otherwise.
In this situation, police were responding to a call, not knowing what to expect; therefore, police establish authority immediately through short, curt instructions given in a firm tone. In most cases when encountering a suspect, the first instruction is to stop. McDonald did not do so. Moreover, McDonald did not drop the weapon in his hand.
Why did McDonald think he could continue on his way when police arrived, clearly directing instructions at him, and refuse to drop his weapon? Did not his parents teach him an appropriate response when encountering police officers? McDonald may not have been guilty. He may have been guilty. Guilty or not, refusing to follow police instructions and continue to “flee” resulted in a situation where this young man was shot and killed. As previously stated, the officer’s response to shoot 16 times was excessive. However, if McDonald’s parent did not teach him to respond appropriately to police, they share in the responsibility of his poor choice. If he was taught, McDonald chose to ignore that teaching. He paid dearly for a bad choice.
The officer at this point need not immediately draw his weapon to fire as another officer was in the car as well as another car also responded to the call. McDonald did not move toward the officers, engage in aggressive behavior or appear threatening. McDonald did flee the scene, running down the street, then changing to a walk upon the police arrival. But, he made a bad choice not to stop.
If Rahm Emanuel is serious about requiring police officers to engage in communication technique training, the public needs to respond in kind and adopt appropriate responses to law enforcement officers. The battleground that is Chicago will not improve if the public and law enforcement officers view each other with hostilities.