As APD’s SWAT Team commander in the early ’90s, I was the first to acquire an armored vehicle for the purpose of rescuing hostages during an active-shooter situation. My intention was not for APD to accrue more military vehicles and equipment throughout the years and dress (as if) at war. You would have thought we were in Afghanistan when the Emergency Response Team arrived after the shooting of the protester at Tiguex Park.
APD should have been on-scene if they had prior information there were armed militia at the protest and not let protesters fend for themselves. You don’t “stage” off-site waiting for something bad to happen to go in and save the day. They didn’t save the day. In fact it escalated because they were not there to at least maintain the peace. And the worst part, someone was shot and critically injured.
Times have changed. Just because we have always policed a certain way doesn’t mean it is the right way anymore. Maybe it never was.
Police departments may not be able to see a future problem during the hiring phase, but officers must intervene when they see excessive force being used, report it to their supervisor, discipline must be imposed and, upon termination, (officers listed) in a national database so other departments know not to hire them. That is how we weed out the “bad apples.”
Training at the police academy must include courses taught by sociology professors, psychologists, lawyers and criminologists. The days of only cops teaching cops are over.
The thin “Blue Line” should only be described as a thread woven through the community we serve. And ending each training day stressing “your goal is to get home safe” must include the citizens we encounter and serve as well. A police officer’s oath of office states that our job is to defend the constitutional rights of all people and protect the weak from oppression.
Being a police officer is a dangerous profession, but we must balance an officer’s fear and sense of vulnerability and convince them that working with the public can help make them safer and reduce crime. If the police and community don’t respect or trust each other, the problems we are facing will not change.
We must change the culture from a “warrior” mentality to a “guardian” mentality and stop using terms like “war on drugs” and “war on crime.” We are not at war with our community or those who live in it.