Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Wanted: Police with People Skills

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Wanted: Police with People Skills

Article excerpt

What can I do?

Not quite six months ago, a reader named Tracy posed that question to me and I, in turn, posed it to you. Tracy, a 55-year- old white woman from Austin, said she was sick of hearing about unarmed African-American men being injured or killed by police. "What can be done? she asked. "What can I do? I'm sincere in this question. I want to DO something. What can that be? Well Bob has some ideas. In an email, he describes himself as a "retired professional firefighter from a metropolitan area whose 20 years as a paramedic often required him to work closely with police.

"I witnessed many cases of police brutality, he writes. "A stressed patient or family member would call 911 for medical assistance. We would respond as well as the PD. A situation that required a calm and caring presence and an ambulance ride to a care center or psych ward would end up in a physical altercation with mace and cuffs.

Bob says he and his partner would talk about what they had seen on the way back to the station, "but knew better than to alert our superiors or file complaints because we did not dare open a rift with the local PD. We (and paramedics on other shifts) needed PD backup on potentially dangerous calls. So we all kept quiet.

Based on that experience, Bob has two suggestions. One is that we should push for more thorough screening of police applicants. "We need cops to DEFUSE situations, he writes, "not escalate. We need cops with people skills. No more bullies. Very intense psych examinations should be part of police applicant training.

Bob's other suggestion? Require that non-sworn civilians be part of any investigation of police brutality. Just as you would never assign a 7-year-old to solve the mystery of the broken cookie jar, he thinks it makes little sense to ask police to investigate their own.

"Do we really think cops will give an unbiased and honest effort when investigating other cops? …

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