Intergenerational Conversations in Blue #3

Continuing “Intergenerational Conversations in Blue” – No. 3 of 9

Exchanges About Police Uses of Force and Community Relationships

Dear Chief,

We can do that.  I am interested in your opinion and want to understand all sides of the argument.  I do not disagree with your main point, police (and all other stake holders who have the ability to address this issue) should do everything possible to avoid the application of deadly force by police.  It is only logical to expand this argument to specifically emphasize the objective with regard to unarmed persons.  I however, do not find Graham v Connor, department policy or the state curriculum to be incongruent to this objective.  I want to stay in dialogue, but need to do something with it.  I failed in my message.  My intention was to say that I am ready to examine an alternative.  Let’s stop generating a list of what we believe is wrong.  What does success look like to you?  Is it a revision to the Graham v. Connor standard?  A new state law?  Is it a system where departments utilize a moral standard to fire officers who utilize force that is justified but not moral?  Again, I think about this in terms of how I can teach it to a new recruit.  My department does have the capacity and ability to make meaningful changes in line with our mission.  I am just not yet convinced that the solution lies in the ’use of force system’.  I am not certain I fully understand what this would entail.  So, in the interest of dialogue, I will ask for your counsel and critique.  Take a look at this article and let me know your thoughts.  Would your revised system rely on 20/20 hindsight and will it remain committed to the limits of human performance?

I would also be interested in your opinion of the handling of the Dontre Hamilton and Christopher Manny incident in Milwaukee, Wisc.  Is this the model?  Officers do not get charged but are fired for creating the jeopardy?  How would a new system hold police agencies responsible?  I am also interested in learning more about your suggestions regarding a ‘stick’.  I am not sure my city is ready for this, or would even consider it as an improvement.  Finally, with regard to your objective of no unarmed people being shot, how do we respond to those who will point to the stats.  Of 616 officer deaths from 94-2003, 8% or 52 officers were killed with their own weapon.   I am not a big stat guy, especially when we can all find stats to support most any argument, but do we intend to tell officers that there is no circumstance whereby an unarmed person can cause imminent danger of death? I will listen to anyone who has ideas on what WE might do next.  We are in this together…

Some decisions are made in seconds.  Others have time to craft a message and to deliberate over specific words.  Suggesting that a member of our community should be cast out can only be done out of a desire to cause pain and intentionally doing so is hateful.  Martin Luther King Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  He also said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Improving the police matters…


Dear Sergeant,

I understand and have witnessed the pain surrounding all this. The officer involved in the shooting is also in my prayers and..  I hope the department is in close touch with [community groups]. Perhaps the need for a departmental chaplain corps?

Your department is to be commended on the way the street protests were handled. Also the absence of violence and property destruction is another feather in the department’s hat. Here’s a great training piece. Every cop in America needs to hear it — and discuss it!