Here are six ways that such deadly force police shootings and police brutality might be reduced if not eliminated in California, Missouri and across the country. They address ways things can be improved on the ground to avoid the injustices in the first place and also in the legal system that's supposed to hold people accountable and thus deter future injustices.
Work in the White Zone – Former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka faced criticism for allegedly instructing his deputies to work inside the excessive force "gray zone" in Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail. Such instruction was ill-advised and unethical if not unconstitutional. Police officers, police agencies and the communities they police must hold police officers to the higher standard of conduct they deserve and we need. Our peace officers should truly be the good guys wearing the white hats -- accepting the privilege of policing with integrity and honor -- knowing that they perform a most valuable job of helping those in need and keeping us safe.
Provide Better Deadly Use of Force Training – Every police officer must understand that deadly force is an absolute last resort to be used only in the direst of circumstances. Peace officers must respect and internalize the concept of "reverence for human life." Further, police officers must be trained and retrained and trained again in key tactics like cover and concealment and negotiation in order to avoid needlessly putting themselves in situations that could lead to unnecessary deadly force police shootings. It seems like in many deadly force police shootings there are other options available to the cop -- whether it is making use of cover while calling for backup, using a non-lethal weapon or simply "talking someone down" -- and it should become second nature to officers to use these tactics instead of pulling out their gun and shooting.
Open Your Ears and Listen – Missouri State Police Captain Ron Johnson mentioned on one of the news programs that he is opening his ears to the voices of the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. This is welcomed news. Captain Ron Johnson understands that this community is hurting from the killing of Mike Brown but also from an accumulation of social ills and injustices including police brutality and deadly force police shootings that have gone on for decades without any type of accountability by the powers-that-be. We can't get better as a society if we don't listen to and acknowledge the suffering and justified complaints of our members.
If You Develop Contempt and Cynicism For the People You Police, Take a Break – Policing can be tremendously stressful and take its toll. But part of policing any community -- and especially an inner city community -- is dealing with people who struggle at the margins. Expect to deal with tragic situations involving poverty, drugs, mental illness, instability and anger. If you can't handle these situations with calmness and a true desire to help then it is time to rotate into a different position within the police force or look for another job.
Replace the Code of Silence with the Code of Truth – The code of silence that protects cops on the street extends far into the criminal and civil justice systems that seek to hold cops accountable when they violate people's constitutional rights. In California, a host of state statutes guard against disclosure of information essential to ferreting out the truth of what happened when it comes to instances of alleged police brutality and deadly force police shootings. Civil rights lawyers have to fight huge battles behind the scenes just to get access to relevant information such as whether an officer alleged to have committed unjustifiable homicide has past incidences of excessive force, as well as key investigative findings pertaining to the incident in question. And it's not just civil rights lawyers. There is a new civilian monitor who is supposed to oversee police brutality within the LA County Sheriff's Department but, absurdly, that monitor is unable to access the personnel files of the deputies he is supposed to be monitoring. There needs to be a greater systemic understanding that transparency is a good thing and when justice is delayed too long through multiple layers of silence justice is denied.
Consider an Independent Prosecutor in Use of Force Cases – When it comes to prosecutors in California, they appear to find reasons to pursue criminal charges in most cases that come across their desks. Except when the alleged perpetrator is a cop. Further, they seem to take an awfully long time in making the decision that inevitably results after their lengthy (and cloaked in secrecy "investigations") – deciding not to file any criminal charges. It may be helpful in terms of inspiring public confidence if nothing else to simply have a disinterested party make or assist in the critical process that determines whether a police officer who is alleged to have engaged in police brutality or committed an unjustifiable deadly force police shooting will be held to answer in a criminal court of law.