by William Skink
How do we deal with a culture of racial fear that seems to spark lethal interactions between white police officers and black men? I don’t mean to oversimplify the latest two tragedies in Louisiana and Minnesota, but I think there’s a good chance that two white men in similar situations wouldn’t have ended up shot to death.
That there is such a thing as good policing seems to rarely be a part of the conversation that ensues when we are confronted with the visceral evidence of how just being non-white can be the escalating factor that results in getting shot to death in front of your girlfriend and her four year old daughter, or getting shot to death while people casually go about their business outside a convenience store.
I know there is such a thing as good policing because I have seen it. I have seen Missoula police officers use their training to deescalate situations that could have gone the other way. From my years working at the shelter, I actually developed a lot of sympathy for what law enforcement and other first responders deal with on a day to day basis.
Good policing requires strong leadership, effective training and engaged community partners working with police before tragedy happens. If those basic elements aren’t in place, then how can we expect cops to deal with increasing racial tensions exacerbated by economic pressures and policy failures, like the war and drugs, stop and frisk and the dubious social theory of broken windows?
Unfortunately, I don’t see this situation between law enforcement and the communities they police improving any time soon. At the macro-level, this country defaults to violence as the main reaction to the problems we face abroad and at home. Until there’s the political will to deal with that, these tragedies will continue.