The public trust in police has taken a severe hit recently. What with all the reports of police shooting unarmed minorities, and police officials declaring war on the general populace. Then there’s the Tamir Rice incident which police officers were caught lying on their report. There seems to be quite a bit of disillusionment at the moment since because in none of the incidents resulted in an indictment, it seems to many that police have a license to kill.
While it seems clear that there is a culture of bias in policing, studies suggest that it’s not completely the fault of individual officers. According to the University of Cincinnati’s Criminal Justice Degree program, the training officers receive is full of “inaccurate predictors of deception and suspiciousness,” which are “not racially neutral.”
What might be more surprising is the fact that the same bias against minority suspects is present even in minority officers. Policechiefmagazine.org suggests that this is all a part of the human condition, and that “Police officers are human and, as the theory contends, may be affected by implicit biases just as any other individual. In other words, well-intentioned officers who err may do so not as a result of intentional discrimination, but because they have what has been proffered as widespread human biases. ” Studies have even concluded that officers of all races are more likely to shoot African Americans, further underlining the problem of bias.
The solution then, seems to be an overhaul of the training program that’s a part of causing this culture of bias. However, that’s easier said than done. Police departments around the country have, due to the recession, been forced to make budget cuts. With 48% of them making heavy cuts in training, there isn’t enough money in the budget for a complete overhaul of training. Plus, that won’t address the issue of bias among officers already trained and on duty.
The Tech Solutions
Image courtesy of Vievu 2
In an effort to eliminate the obvious public trust issue police face these days, as well as to provide concrete evidence for court proceedings, the Obama Administration has earmarked $75 million in funding each year for local police departments to buy at least 50,000 cameras that officers would be required to wear while going about their duties. The hope is that it will not only curb police brutality, but clear up debated incidents like the Michael Brown case. Also, in a country where only 40% of crimes are ever solved, these cameras could potentially bring those numbers up.
Other benefits of camera use is the fact that since California implemented the body cameras in February 2012, public complaints against officers dropped 88% and use of force fell by 60%. In Texas, body cameras have been used to aid in fighting domestic violence. Officials in Bell County used a grant to purchase the cameras in response to the increase of dismissals of domestic violence cases. Because of the nature of the crime, people frequently recant or refuse to press charges. Video evidence of abuse has been invaluable in prosecuting the perpetrators of this growing problem. It’s clear that public policy requiring the use of these cameras will go down in history as one that changes the face of law enforcement.
Image courtesy of Yahoo News
This brightly colored attachment that looks like a toy is an important advancement in non-lethal force. Dubbed “The Alternative”, this can be quickly attached to any standard issue semi-automatic handgun. The first bullet fired will meld with the ball projectile at the end of the attachment to create a “less lethal” round designed to incapacitate a target but not pierce the skin. After this first round, the gun then fires as normal and is lethal.
“It gives another option,” Said Al Eickhoff Ferguson’s assistant chief who has tested the device personally. “I really liked it … You are always looking to save a life, not take a life.” Eickhoff found the device while doing a Google search on “less lethal.” There is a bonus in that cases where a shooting has occurred, the use of the device can go a long way to proving intent on the part of the officer.
Image courtesy of shielddefensesystems.com
The Z-RO is a light based weapon that will blind a suspect for around 10 to 15 minutes. So named for Zero Retinal Obfuscation, it works by “scrambling ocular fluid” and temporarily blinding the victim. The manufacturer claims there is no permanent damage to the retina or cornea, and can disable multiple assailants at once. It will come in mounted and handheld forms and could be potentially used to safely subdue animals as well. According to the manufacturer website, the Z-RO will be available for law enforcement soon.
There are new advancements every day in the field of non-lethal law enforcement. One day, we might see a fully non-lethal police force that uses advanced, life preserving technology to subdue suspects. One can only hope. The thing that we can be certain of is that the state of law enforcement is changing.
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