Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baton Rouge Funeral: How to Get the 'Best of Humanity' from Cops

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baton Rouge Funeral: How to Get the 'Best of Humanity' from Cops

Article excerpt

Police, family, and the community of Baton Rouge, La., gathered Friday for the funeral of Deputy Brad Garafola, killed by a gunman Sunday in an ambush that left two other officers dead and three wounded.

The death of East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Garafola has received particular attention, as he intentionally left cover to help another wounded officer.

"Against the worst of humanity, Garafola showed the best of humanity," wrote editors for The Advocate of Louisiana. "He had taken cover behind a dumpster during a gunfight with the attacker when he saw a wounded Baton Rouge Police Department officer making his way around the corner of a building. Garafola left his protected position to help the officer, and was killed by the gunman."

His story raises a question: How can police departments recruit, train, and support more officers like Garafola? How are officers across the country to be trained to run into gunfire to save a fellow officer, defuse suicide-by-cop scenarios, and respond to all citizens with respect and professionalism?

The answer, say analysts, lies partly in departments that build a bridge between police and "civilians" and in officers who genuinely sympathize with the humanity of those they "protect and serve."

In situations where a suspect is threatening violence, officers are trained to back away as much as possible and then engage in discussion, says Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation. The purpose is to understand what is motivating the suspect, then use that information to calm the situation.

Mr. Bueermann describes an incident where he used this strategy to gain genuine understanding of the suspect's situation, then defuse it without violence. He and another officer had answered a call that a man had a baby hostage at knifepoint, and the suspect told the officers to shoot him.

They backed away as much as possible without leaving the child and began to talk. As dialogue continued, Bueermann began to understand the man's motivation - he had committed another crime and was using the baby as a human shield, thinking it would keep him out of jail. Once they understood his thinking, the officers persuaded him to drop the knife.

"Talking to my own officers who experience those kind of incidents, the last thing they want to do is pull the trigger because they know that person is in distress," says Bueermann in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. "I can't even begin to describe how much on edge you are . . . and you have to make that decision."

This kind of training helps officers navigate not only the "suicide-by-cop," but also it aids everyday police work where historic tensions could highlight racial differences. In Nashville, Tenn., police have worked with the Nashville library to develop a nationally lauded training program about the Civil Rights movement, the Associated Press reported. …

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