Another African-American man face-down on the ground was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer. It started only with a routine traffic stop, turned into a foot chase and tussle finally ending in the fatality of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old black man and a father of two. It happened on April 4 in broad daylight with many witnesses, some of them recording the incident on cellphone video.
Two years after George Floyd’s death, what has changed? For one, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts by the jury. Justice prevailed and the hopes are that this verdict will go a long way to address the police conduct and ‘Black Lives Matter’ concerns in the US which has seeped through other countries including Canada. This was a first step in the right direction yet many more to go.
In addition to rethinking social equality, another more significant responsibility that the intelligentsia, the law enforcement and the justice system have is to act as custodians of human rights with the pledge of ensuring the equality for all human lives no matter which side of the fence they belong to and all should be treated that way.
When it comes to education, the US police forces must think outside the box to arm their officers, and train them a little differently. Emphasis should be on the use of non-lethal means.
One fails to understand why the police do not use other means to subdue the individual who is posing a threat to them or other members of the public. In the case of Mr. Wright who was “resisting arrest” and got agitated as the body cam video apparently shows, an efficient, prompt and appropriate response could have controlled the situation. As the police chief’s statement goes, the officer who was on the police force for 26 years was reaching out for a Taser, but accidentally pulled the gun, and without realising that it was actually her firearm and not the Taser she discharged the weapon! Does this person deserve to be on a police force in the first place as even after more than two decades of experience she could not pull the correct device in a liquid situation? She did take the appropriate decision to resign from the force rather than continue to be on administrative leave.
Not in this case but in several other cases we notice unnecessary and multiple shots are fired by police officers on someone who can be handled with less force. In Mr. Wright’s case we only note one single shot was fired that probably proved fatal.
Most US law enforcement agencies have a very delicate relationship with the African-American community at this moment in particular, and with the public in general, yet this unfortunate incident happened in the same region where My Floyd’s trial went on. This would have only escalated the tension and rubbed salt on wounds. Special caution should have been taken, Mr. Wright could have been arrested later in a more controlled and calm way. How a traffic violation stop became an arrest and escalated to a fatality is not clear.
Analysis also suggests that officers become anxious, nervous and edgy – and in a panic just pull the trigger. Their reaction should be ‘controlled’ as well as ‘controlling’ and not panicky and reactive. They should react calmly and should not think like a soldier in a war zone. The police’s job is usually in civilian settings and they should be vigilant and mindful of the fact that their top priority should always be to subdue any violent elements and not just quickly eliminate them.
Their approach should be different from soldiers’ approach, which is ‘locate and liquidate.’ Their approach should be ‘control and neutralise’ which should not mean shooting as the first option. For the police trainers, it is time to think over their shooting training strategies and hit the reset button. Officers on the streets should be correctly trained to make such decisions in an instant to decide why to shoot, where to shoot and how to shoot. And if an extreme action becomes inevitable, they should certainly use it, but should not make their first priority to pull lethal weapons out.