Within hours of the guilty verdicts against former cop Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, police in Detroit shot and killed a man who had stabbed himself and was stabbing an officer.
At roughly the same time, a cop in Columbus, Ohio, had to make a split-second decision when confronted with a teen girl who was attacking another girl with a knife. He shot and killed her.
Both those instances highlight the challenges the nation faces as it attempts to curb police shootings. It’s not all about regulating the police.
There are broader issues of mental health, poverty and the roots of violence that also must be addressed.
As Robert Bobb, the former emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools, writes in Thursday’s Think section, “perceiving the problem as primarily a policing matter … is a false narrative.”
Bobb, chairman of the Washington, D.C., police reform commission, advocates for a comprehensive approach that examines all the factors in a community that lead to violent confrontations between police and citizens.
Reform efforts that don’t take into account mental health services, education and other social issues will not succeed.
That will take much more money and a lot more work than what Congress has offered in response to police shootings. Lawmakers so far are more interested in layering on more rules and red tape than finding a true fix.
Following the conclusion of the trial in Minneapolis, new calls have emerged for final passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House on a near straight Democratic vote in March.
The act offers some common sense measures, such as safeguards against turning police departments into paramilitary operations, limiting no-knock warrants, and requiring more body cameras. But it also includes elements that could compromise officer safety and place the public in greater danger.
Most concerning is the lifting of qualified immunity for officers, and de facto quotas to assure that departments aren’t disproportionately arresting one demographic group over another.
These measures could serve to paralyze officers who often need to react in an instant to save their own lives or those of others.
But the biggest flaw in the act is that it pretends the problem rests largely with police and policing. It fails to acknowledge that police officers are the ones that have to deal with the consequences of an inadequate mental health system and insufficient social services.
Nothing in the Justice in Policing Act addresses the root causes of violence. That’s why many civil rights organizations have worked against its passage.
More federal regulations on police departments will do little good without steps to improve the conditions that lead to confrontations between cops and citizens.
— THE DETROIT NEWS