The newsLINK Group - The Use of Deadly Force

Editorial Library Category: Cities & Towns Topics: Police Officers’ Use of Deadly Force Title: The Use of Deadly Force Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Anyone who hears about stories involving deadly force feels a strong concern. This is only natural. As a result, it is fair to say that people are more concerned — rightly — about this issue now than they have been for at least the last thirty years. Editorial: The Use of Deadly Force 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 In the last 45 months, Salt Lake County has had 44 shootings that involved an officer. That includes recent shootings in Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, West Valley, and Saratoga Springs. In 2012, West Valley detective Shaun Cowley shot 21- year-old Danielle Willard. On June 18, 2014, a Salt Lake City police officer named Brett Olsen shot a two-year-old, 100-pound dog named Geist in a fenced back yard belonging to Sean Kendall while looking for a three-year-old boy who was missing. In August, Officer Bron Cruz shot 20-year-old Dillon Taylor in Salt Lake County twice after Taylor refused to show his hands. Taylor was unarmed. In September, two officers shot a 22-year-old black man named Darrien Hunt who had a samurai-type sword. Autopsy results suggest that Hunt may have been shot from behind, which contradicts the officers’ description of what happened. Of the shootings in Salt Lake County, 40 were found to be justified. Four were not — according to Sim Gill, that includes the case where Danielle Willard was killed. Nobody is happy about any shooting on the list. But they are more than just a problem in Salt Lake County alone. The national news recently has included similar stories, such as what took place recently in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, when 18-year old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. As is clear from the cases involving Darrien Hunt and Michael Brown, race is often a complicating factor when deadly force becomes an issue. Although the Civil War ended April 9, 1865, we are still dealing with the fallout 150 years later. The U.S. has not yet healed its racial divide even though the U.S. is arguably more racially diverse, and more inclusive, than it has ever been. Many people are unwilling to give police officers the benefit of the doubt when racial differences are involved. But for any parents with young, black sons, who can blame them for being afraid that race might be a motivating factor? Anyone who hears about stories involving deadly force feels a strong concern. This is only natural. As a result, it is fair to say that people are more concerned — rightly — about this issue now than they have been for at least the last thirty years. That concern is appropriate. Police officers hold a position of trust within our society, but the system only works the way it should when community trust is justified. As a result, evaluating these cases is something that needs to be done carefully and respectfully, because if we get them wrong, then more is at stake than just an abuse of power, even though that by itself is wrong and should not be tolerated. If police officers abuse their right to use lethal force, then people within the community lose their trust in the uniform, and it becomes harder for the police to do their work. At some point, in fact, it becomes impossible for the police to do their work. And when that happens, the fabric of a civilized society has been destroyed. What can we say in defense of our police force? The fact is that officers are placed into difficult circumstances on a daily basis. When most of us go to work in the morning, we fully expect to go home at night. Although not all of what an officer does is life-threatening, the fact is that officers wear a uniform, and therefore they are easy targets for anyone carrying a weapon. Remember, too, that Utah is a state that values the right to bear arms. You probably heard about Anita Sarkesian cancelling her scheduled appearance at Utah State University. She cancelled on October 14, 2014, because the university had received death threats if she were to speak, and campus police told her that they could not legally prevent people from bringing concealed firearms into a campus auditorium. What was true for her is also true, all the time, for police officers. Anyone an officer sees might be armed.

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