Like other Americans, I am totally sickened by the ongoing murder of innocent black men by police. These police need to know they are destroying their own lives as they destroy others’. When they act, in a matter of seconds, as judge, jury, and executioner and kill someone who is reaching for his wallet or holding a book or simply turning his back and running because he fears for his life, they are sentencing themselves to a life of regret and guilt, and, potentially, years in jail.
This has to stop. But it won’t stop simply via better training. It won’t stop simply by indicting police for manslaughter, as just occurred in Tulsa. And it won’t stop simply by fostering better race relations. The policeman who killed Keith Scott in Charlotte is, like Mr. Scott, African American. Nor will it change by telling policemen that the guns they carry do not make them rulers of the universe. Nor do they give them the right to brutalize the public or order the public around as if they were their slaves.
Yes, these steps will help. But the actual killing will only stop when the police are armed with non-lethal weapons, be they stun guns, guns with rubber bullets, guns that shoot tear gas pellets or something else of this nature. The police should have non-lethal weapons at the ready and lethal weapons available only as backup.
This is a simple, practical solution to the problem. Police who are pulling over a motorist or have some other encounter with the public that does not obviously place them in harm’s way should have their non-lethal weapon at the ready if they feel threatened. But they should not, for example, be approaching people in a car, which they stop for a burnt out tail light, with deadly guns drawn or ready to be drawn. In short, it’s time to rearm the police in a way that keeps them and the public safe not just against real danger to the police, but also against the policemen and policewomen’s own acute fear of being injured.
In this regard, I urge the Charlotte’s Chief of Police to, first, release the video tape so everyone can better understand the circumstances under which Mr. Scott was killed and, second, immediately issue non-lethal weapons to his force and make clear that they are not to use lethal weapons unless their lives are definitely threatened. In taking this second step, the Charlotte Police Chief can set an example for police forces across the country and instantly and dramatically improve the relationship between the police and the public, particularly the African American community.