Seattle police protest limits

A recent sobering milestone was passed. While the federal government does not keep exact records, statistically it’s a safe bet that more Americans have died in America at the hand of American police than American combat deaths in Iraq since 9/11. While there’s no way to determine how many of those were justified, the staggering number of cases of police misconduct point to a pervasive problem.
To add insult to murder, 126 Seattle police recently sued Attorney General Eric Holder, the City of Seattle, Justice Department employees and city officials because of new limits placed on force after a federal investigation. The lawsuit claims that the limits prevent them from using “reasonable and effective force”, and that  they are forced “to take unnecessary risks” and will “under-react to threats of harm until we have no choice but to overreact.”
Judging by the actions of police in Seattle and across the country, the threat of overreaction is a serious one. Was stomping on the face of a handcuffed suspect lying on the ground while spitting racial slurs acceptable? What are these officers thinking overreaction is? The recent coverage of police misconduct mirrors a nationwide trend of a militarized police. On May 11, Pierce County sheriffs used four tasers simultaneously, beating a man suffering from mental illness to death with flashlights. Ron Hillstrom was asking for help and appearing to suffer from delusions when police were called to “assist”.
In Atlanta, a 19-month-old toddler remains in a medically-induced coma after, as part of a no-knock raid, a flashbang was thrown into the toddler’s playpen and exploded in his face. Another no-knock raid in Pima County, Arizona resulted in the death of Marine veteran Jose Guerena after a SWAT team entered his home to search for marijuana while his four-year-old son was home. While police claim that Guerena fired first, his rifle was found unfired and safety engaged. More than 70 rounds were fired at Guerena in seven seconds, and paramedics were prevented from seeing Guerena for over an hour. No marijuana or anything illegal was found in the house. A Sunday-school teacher was shot to death in a church parking lot in Culpeper, Virginia after an officer claimed she rolled his sleeve up in a window and drove off, dragging him. No eyewitness agrees with his story.
One of the most despicable acts in recent memory is the murder of Kelly Thomas. Thomas was a homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia living in Fullerton, California. Responding to a call of someone vandalizing cars, three police officers came across Thomas, threatened him, and started beating him. Thomas was cooperative but was beaten so badly the bones in his face were broken and he choked on his own blood. Pressure put on his chest prevented him from breathing, starving his brain of oxygen. During the beating, Kelly called for his father 31 times, acquiesced and said “please” 30 times to police, Kelly called to God for help 26 times and said “I’m sorry” 15 times while being beaten by three police officers.
The recent lawsuit by Seattle police is yet another example of a fundamental problem in policing. Police are militarized, heavily armed, trained to respond with deadly force when put into dangerous situations and thrown into dangerous situations on a daily basis. The fact that thousands of Americans are being killed should not be a surprise, and allowing police to continue business as usual will only result in more dead. The only thing that will change the situation is a profound and systemic shift in training. Teaching police to be agents of good, aiding those who need it instead of citizen-soldiers going to battle will address the problem at the source.