DELAYING QUESTIONING OF POLICE

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According to an article in the Washington Post, police in the U.S. have shot and killed 385 people in the first five months of 2015. The findings of the article depict a sharp contrast between the racial identity of those killed, whether the person was armed, and the geographical setting of the shootings. The article states:

About half the victims were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.

The findings translate into a chilling statistic of 2.6 deaths per day in the country during this period. For comparison purposes, 76 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in all of 2013. Another factor that has received substantial criticism, is the common technique employed by internal police investigations of delaying the interrogation of police officers involved in violent confrontations. Supporters of this practice claim that such delays provide a “cooling off” period and this helps to prevent stress related memory distortions. The same analysis apparently does not apply to suspects since they are almost always immediately questioned about events; the theory is that immediate questioning lessens the opportunity for fabrication (e.g. “getting one’s story together”).

To no surprise, over one-half of the fatal shootings occurred when police were responding to domestic-related calls. Some experts feel that the police need to reevaluate their thinking regarding what is “legal” and start focusing on preventability:

“We have to get beyond what is legal and start focusing on what is preventable. Most are preventable,” said Ronald L. Davis, a former police chief who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Davis went on to say, “police need to stop chasing down suspects, hopping fences and landing on top of someone with a gun. When they do that, they have no choice but to shoot”. Something very similar to that very claim was made by family members and supporters of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams who were allegedly shot and killed (the judge who acquitted the officer was unable or unwilling to legally determine who fired the fatal shots) by an officer who jumped on the hood of the victim’s car and started blazing away.

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