What We Learned at Platteville: Part 4 of 5

Rev. Everett Mitchell, Director of Community Relations, Univ. of Wisc., and Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Church in Madison.
Rev. Everett Mitchell, Director of Community Relations, Univ. of Wisc., and Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Church in Madison.

“Police Use of Deadly Force: Legal, Moral and Minority Perspectives” Rev. Everett Mitchell: Graduate of Morehouse College with multiple academic awards in mathematics and religion; Masters of Divinity from Princeton Seminary. Graduated from UW-Madison Law School with Juris Doctorate. Former assistant district Attorney, Dane County. Co-editor of Breaking Silence: Pastoral Approaches to Creating an Ethos of Peace. Currently director of the Office of Community Relations, UW-Madison, and is pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church.


 

“All you see is bad stuff all the time as a prosecutor; had to stop being a prosecutor because lost that larger image that included black people. Vision of policing has changed in Madison; most dangerous philosophy; does damage to all of us trying to create community; destroying ability to build good trust.

“DEADLY FORCE. In 2015: 886 people killed by police in U.S. to date; It’s better that they’re counting; armed/unarmed encounters. 1999-2014…who knows how many? Weren’t counting them on a national basis.

“Even when on tape, Video cameras on police is not going to be the end-all; in spite of videos produced/captured still an engagement in deadly force; e.g. Cincinnati; camera on; cop even starts narrative.

“What’s going on? Shootings in Dane County. Since 2000, at least 15 fatal shootings where officer involved; at least 5 included unarmed and mentally ill individuals; creates sense of a broken system, confusing for young people; they don’t really understand; trying to tell young men to trust the process; they just get more broken and confused. Others say, ‘Let’s talk about black on black crime;’ difference when Janahl kills Rakaim. Pedagogy of the Oppressed talks about how being oppressed leads to oppressed targeting another oppressed, playing out oppressor mentality]

“After District Attorney Ozanne’s decision in Madison, not to charge the police officer with Tony Robinson’s killing, I wanted the community members to be able to grieve, but wanted them also to be safe.

“There are 27 different police departments in Dane County; 27 different philosophies; one police unit doesn’t do same thing as another; can be extremely confusing for the public; in Dane County you can drive through 5 different jurisdictions within 5 miles. Why isn’t there common standard?

“Sad when you have to talk officers down while they try to escalate the situation; ‘Why are you raising your voice to me; you don’t have to dehumanize me next to my child.’ This is a first person example here:

“‘Calm the fuck down; I’m a former prosecutor!’

“Fallen officers in Dane County: 7 officers killed since 1918 and yet used as major defense for the behavior of police officers.   Last one in Madison was in 1932. Last officer killed in Dane County was in 1979.

Tennessee v. Garner (1985)

“Facts: Justice Rehnquist waited four years to render this decision which prohibited police from using deadly force against fleeing, non-dangerous persons. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_v._Garner

Graham v Connor (1989)

“Excessive Force: pay attention to the language: Rehnquist rewrote it. “Objective reasonableness” (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_v._Connor. Does this give us and should we use this as a model? It only sets down a standard of review in the use of force – not a directive that police can use force whenever they experience fear.

“Google Graham v. Connor; messed up; much direction here in teaching cops what to say to avolid being criminally charged; cited statements that cops are taught to say in defense of their actions of deadly force/bad behavior – ‘I thought he was going to take my gun away and shoot me,’ ‘I thought he was reaching for a gun,’ and so forth. We keep hearing the same phrases over and over again used by cops engaging in bad behavior/deadly force. This creates a standard – police learn how to protect themselves and not protect the community.

“Chief Koval of Madison defends how cops spoken to by those who are upset. ‘Tell your officers to stop being so sensitive; you have the guns; and don’t take it so personal.’

“Police use of force training manual misinterpret what the standard of using deadly force is and then miscommunicate it to recruit officers.

“The Police Executive Research Forum’s report ‘Re-engineering Training of Police Use of Force’ causes a re-thinking of this critical subject. Average hours of training:

  • Firearms – 58 hrs
  • De-escalation 8 hrs
  • Crisis Intervention 8 hrs
  • InService Training
  •       Only 65% provide de-escalation training
  •       93% offer firearms training
  •       Only 5% of in-service hours spent on de-Escalation

“ESTABLISHING REVIEWS:   Police departments and communities can have additional and even higher standards in the academy and during the life cycle of an officer’s career.

“Sometimes you need to find places to highlight when someone has done exactly what you want to happen. A good example is the LA Sheriff’s Traffic Deputy who over a course of many years had NO complaints while writing thousands of tickets. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W6FEW3dAgo) He needs to be put in charge of training!

“Community leaders and those with special skills within community can come in and teach needed skills in communication and de-escalation.

“Don’t let budgets be the enemy of your imagination

“Perception of threat supposedly matters a GREAT deal.

“But how do you fire a bad officer? Chiefs often feel community won’t like that. Doesn’t matter what we do if we’re not working together

“Include relational based conversations during training; bring those individuals who look like criminals but are straight A students. Officers don’t have relationships with these lads. They need to see them as the children that they are; engage them; listen to them

“Need to establish a system of review for excessive force claims within every department

“Training should include moral discussion regarding use of force; just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

“We in the community also watch for those moments when officers DON’T shoot.”


 

Dr. Pat Solar, Professor of Criminal Justice and former Chief of Police in Illinois.
Dr. Pat Solar, Professor of Criminal Justice and former Chief of Police in Illinois.

Response: Dr. Pat Solar: Police management and supervision for nearly 30 years; Doctorate in Political Philosophy, specializing in Organizational Development. 1997 graduate from FBI National Academy, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at UW-Platteville.

“Just because law says we can, is it OK as police officers to do so? Police are reflections of society; only ones grappling with real problems.

“There is something about law enforcement that dehumanizes police officers; sometimes allows officers to violate what any of us would consider unacceptable boundaries. We accept the law as primary source of guidance

“Dehumanizing: Implicit bias; officer superiority over people especially those who are poor; some of them referred to in derogatory terms; once they can see them in this way, then behaviors get rationalized; same as those people who refer to police in this way; opens door for violence being perpetrated.

“Police offering us a clearer view; could they be symptoms; police witness firsthand man’s inhumanity to man; might this be more evidence of more deterioration of society? But police need to demonstrate compassion and respect for all people

“Is it time to consider more Federal control? Possibly mandatory accreditation?

“Need men and women of good will; words of Martin Luther King Jr. — man either moral or he is not;

“Positive example of Madison police chief responding to family after a shooting; went directly to family and expressed sorrow; said he was sorry; strikes at essence at what was moral; probably just knew it was the right thing.

“The law is completely inadequate for moral guidance; can’t train officers to be ethical; they either are or they are not. Police today are fearful of being the next Brian Wilson. But new crisis will occur

“Another unarmed man will be killed; it is a sure thing.

“We need more compassionate police. Nearly 50 years ago in 1967 there was another Presidential task force on police (See https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/42.pdf. They, among many other things, suggested that officers have a broad range of duties; they emphasized college training and on-going education.”


Questions & Answers

“Strong possibility to consider standardizing police behavior in this nation; now more than 27,000 different jurisdictions.”

Breakout Groups at the Conference.
Breakout Groups at the Conference.