Police shootings are troubling

The numbers keep increasing.

The numbers keep increasing.

According to figures compiled by Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, and corroborated by the Chicago Police Department, Chicago police officers are taking deadly aim this summer.

There have been 41 police-involved shootings so far this year, more than all of last year. The 16 fatal shootings already tops last year’s deadly total. The trend is not good.

Certainly, there have been too many reports of shootings in Chicago – particularly in our communities – and too many of them have involved innocent bystanders. When small children, playing in their own front yard, are felled by indiscriminate gunfire, everyone is affected.

There seems to be more shooting even while violent crime continues to drop. As many pointed out – including Rahm Emanuel when he was a candidate for mayor, while actual crime is down, the perception of crime is certainly up. That perception is driven by a lot of things – including media coverage, but no doubt, if you do not feel safe, you aren’t safe.

Police say that there is a lawlessness in some communities that has no regard for human life, whether it is in uniform or not. In almost every case, even the recent shooting of a 13-year-old, police allege that individuals aimed weapons or actually fired on the officers first, and the officers returned fire. At least two officers have been shot – thankfully none fatally – and officers are admittedly on alert. They claim to be understaffed, under armed, and facing a criminal element that has no compunction about targeting a police officer.

Prominent in the minds of many of those police officers is the wave of unprovoked police shootings that took place last year. Officers, in uniform, at their homes, or just walking out of a police station, who were shot and killed. It is understandable that some officers feel that the uniform is the target.

We don’t want to delve into the psychology of crime, or the sociological underpinnings of a population of criminals who have so little regard for law and order. There is no defending that kind of fatal violence, no understanding those for whom taking a life is as mundane as flicking away the butt of a loose square.

But just as we understand the police point of view, we know that the community should not feel under siege by both the criminals and the police. If the community gets the idea that the police are shooting first and asking questions later, they will make a point of avoiding the police – creating the kind of disassociation that has plagued effective crime fighting for years.

The IPRA suggests that better training of police officers could help bring the number of police-involved shootings down. The police suggest that more police officers on the streets would serve as a deterrent. We suggest that the community do more of its own policing by not giving cover to those criminals who are terrorizing their neighborhoods.

We certainly want the police taking an active role in stopping this wanton violence. We want to partner with the police in making our communities safe. We want to hold the police department to the idea of “serve and protect,” not “target and shoot.”

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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