There has been much outrage recently over two highly-publicized police shootings of young black men. This outrage, of course, has been fed by camera phone recordings of the incidents which were then placed on social media for the world to see. One shooting occurred in Louisiana and the other in Minnesota. Be aware that we still don't have all the facts in either case, so the information I'm presenting below about the two cases may be incomplete. Therefore, for now, we should all reserve judgment about those two particular incidents.
In Louisiana, Alton Sterling was shot to death by police after a homeless man called 911 and reported that Sterling had threatened him with a gun. When the police arrived at the scene, Sterling refused their orders to get on the ground, so he was subsequently tackled and held down by the police. While he was being held down (with his hands apparently pinned down as well), one officer fired several shots into him.
In Minnesota, Philando Castille was pulled over for having a busted tail light. Castille told the officer who pulled him over that he had a gun in the car and that he had a concealed carry permit. But when he reached for his wallet, the officer shot him four times, mortally wounding him. Castille’s girlfriend was in the car with him and recorded the aftermath of the shooting, which included footage of Castille bleeding and dying.
I would like to say up front that I do not believe this is a white-black thing, as so many people and the media have tried to make it out to be. Keep in mind that more white people are shot by police officers than black people are. So let’s put that thing to rest right now. Next, I don’t think we have a police problem. More than 99% of all cops are good, decent people who would never hurt anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. We just have a small number of trigger-happy ones that need to be dealt with. Rules and procedures should be put in place to discourage the kind of overreach that these bad cops tend to engage in.
First, there should be a rule against offers pulling their weapons (much less firing them) when both of the suspect’s arms/hands are pinned to the ground, regardless of whether or not he has a gun on his person. Common sense should tell you that a person whose hands are pinned down cannot shoot you. What’s he going to do, shoot you with his feet?
Second, if an officer pulls someone over for a traffic violation and is uncomfortable with the driver reaching into his pocket to get his driver’s license, that officer should order him to come out of his car with both hands visible and then remove the license and anything else from the driver’s pockets himself. Such a practice would greatly decrease the chances of both the officer and the driver being shot.
Third and finally, this farce of firing multiple shots at a suspect who does not have a gun in his hand has got to end. Many times, it’s the second, third, or fourth shot that’s fatal. If an officer has to fire at someone who does not have a gun in his hand, he should fire only one shot and then reassess the person’s danger to him. If he is still a danger, then fire another single shot. But only one shot a time. None of this rapid fire, bang, bang, bang, bang that often leaves the suspect dead.