A Question of “Proportionality”

When someone is stopped for having a taillight out, and it escalates into an assault and arrest, something is distorted. The fact that a man can walk or run through a neighborhood, and vigilante types can act on a misguided hunch to end that person’s life, is criminal on its face.

The police themselves have a standard which you do not want to reach. Are you perceived as a “threat.” Once you are, it seem that almost any action can be taken against you. I was talking with a local policeman in Maryland about this issue. He described a scene in which a farmer, emerging from his own home in the country, carried a pitchfork. The officer described him as a threat. I said, “Why don’t you just back up out of his range?” He replied,”Oh, you’re one of those humanitarians.”

I carried that one a little farther. “You are on his property, and he does not have lethal force. You arrived and you have choice over where you position yourselves. Back up.”

I would just like to see time spent on developing apprehension “flow charts.” Even someone fleeing the police…where is he going to go? Do you have to shoot to kill? What about shooting him in the leg. Better, how about picking him up at this home, where he is bound to return? A bullet is not a solution. It is an overstatement and invocation of lethal force. Why? Because you have a gun?

Training needs to extend beyond use of lethal weapons, and more toward seeing the person as a human being, and the situation as not necessarily confrontational or having to play out with finality in a few minutes. Let’s get some proportion back into law enforcement.

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