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EDITORIAL: ‘8 Can’t Wait’ is simply good policing

EDITORIAL: ‘8 Can’t Wait’ is simply good policing

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IN 2015, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer that ignited a violent backlash in that city, Campaign Zero launched a project as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to reduce fatal police/citizen encounters to zero.

The group’s “8 Can’t Wait” project’s data-backed reforms will purportedly reduce the killing of civilians by police officers by 72 percent:

1. Police officers are required to de-escalate situations which have a potential for violence;

2. They have a duty to intervene when they witness other police officers violating suspects’ rights;

3. Chokeholds and strangleholds are banned;

4. Police are required to warn suspects before shots are fired;

5. They are not allowed to fire at moving vehicles;

6. They must exhaust all other options before firing their weapons;

7. Departments must train officers in a “use of force continuum”; and

8. All uses of force must be comprehensively reported.

Campaign Zero data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe said these eight policies cost virtually nothing, but “they can make a big difference and can be implemented most quickly by cities across the country.”

The eight reforms are designed to make police officers think first before they react and impulsively fire their service weapons, and that’s a good thing. In fact, most police departments across the nation have already adopted some, if not all, of these recommendations.

On July 30, the City of Fredericksburg reported that its Police Department, which was already in compliance with six of the eight policies, was looking at adopting the other two.

Police Chief Brian Layton told The Free Lance–Star on Wednesday that the department’s updated Response to Resistance Directive “now requires a warning before shooting (if reasonable under the circumstances) and a duty to intervene.” All officer-involved shootings are investigated by the Virginia State Police.

“The department’s last officer-involved shooting was over two years ago on July 23, 2018, when Officer Cabrera responded to a domestic disturbance. Just seconds after knocking on the front door, a male quickly swung open the storm door and stabbed Officer Cabrera with a box cutter-style knife in his face and neck. Officer Cabrera withdrew from the residence as the offender exclaimed obscenities and flaunted his weapon,” Layton said in response to a question by the FLS.

“In fear for his life, Officer Cabrera fired at the suspect, causing the offender to retreat into the residence. Officer Cabrera was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital, where he received medical treatment. He was released later that evening. In 2019, the offender, Joseph L. Jackson, pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

Training officers to first attempt to defuse situations like this before they escalate is simply good policing and more law enforcement agencies should adopt these eight common-sense reforms. After all, a police officer’s job is to detain and arrest criminal suspects, not be the judge, jury and executioner.

So why are some BLM activists and supporters, many of whom who originally championed “8 Can’t Wait,” now denouncing it?

Some claim that the study uses “dated and flawed data” that does not support the 72 percent claim. Others contend that “the #8cantwait campaign seeks to further legitimize police at a time where the nation is witnessing the fundamental illegitimacy of policing in this country.”

But a few activists have even gone beyond “defunding the police” to calling for abolishing police departments altogether: “Individuals who are enraged by the recurring injustices of policing have to decide whether to rally behind the easier, but likely impermanent route of police reform, or to offer support to the more difficult but wholly effective route of police abolition,” Olivia Murray wrote in the June Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review.

Abolishing the police would certainly solve the problem of police–civilian killings. But it would only exacerbate the much bigger problem of criminal–civilian killings, as data from America’s largest cities—which have experienced a sharp spike in homicides this year compared with 2019—so clearly demonstrate.

What communities need are well-trained police officers who, while enforcing the law, treat all citizens with respect and dignity and only use violence as a last resort.

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