Time For New Policing Protocols?

April 16, 2015 Off By Michael
Arizona policing ramming a suspect with his squad car heats up debate on the need for policing protocols. Photo Credits KVOA-TV

Arizona police officer rams a suspect with his squad car heats up debate on the need for policing protocols. Photo Credits KVOA-TV

Is it time for new policing protocols?

Statically, we are told that every 28 hours a citizen of the United States of America is killed by a law enforcement official.

It seems to me  more like every 24 hours. It seems that each morning I arise, the news  sources I subscribe to are broadcasting another violent citizen confrontation with an American police agency. At the rate these violent confrontations are unfolding we will be up to two a day before long.

These confrontations have not always existed; even when the news media was not paying particular attention as they are now doing. There are multiple causes for this sudden rise in citizen confrontations with police officers.  It is inescapable that the police response has become elevated from their age-old motto of “To protect and Serve.”It has become all out war whenever they give a command to a citizen that puts up even the most minimal resistance.

For instance, Eric Garner questioned whether the Staten Island policer officer had probable cause to arrest him. His constitutionally guaranteed query ended in a deadly chokehold which cut off oxygen to his vital organs leading to his death.

Also, in the case of Michael Brown, who objected to the speed with which a St. Louis police officer wanted him to get out of the street quickly escalated to several gun shots to Brown’s body causing him to die in the middle of that street.

Just this week, an Arizona police officer used his squad car as a deadly weapon to apprehend a fleeing felon, who although armed with a shotgun, had not used the gun in an offensive matter against any citizen or law enforcement authorities.

Although the vast majority of the citizens who have been killed or severely injured by police officers in this current wave of citizen and police confrontations have been black or brown, some have been white citizens.

The problem is not so much racial as it is policing protocol. Perhaps the paradigm of the 21st century deems this to be the kind of combat- zone policing that we currently see in the streets of America. If so, there needs to be clearly defined rules that justify the militia-type policing in light of the federal constitutional protections found in the Bill of Rights.

For example, by  running over a suspect with his police cruiser at 40 miles per hour, did  the police officer in Arizona deny the defendant, without benefit of trial, his right against cruel and unusual punishment?

The Arizona event graphically depicts law enforcement’s perspective to policing in the 21st century. This perspective appears to be trending across the country.

Essentially, what is happening at the street level is police officers are acting as judge and jury and meting out punishment that they deem appropriate. This obviously denies the suspects the opportunity to have their guilt proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt.

We are at a place in this country that we have not been since the first volley was fired in the War for Independence from the British Isles.

Is it time to decide whether this trend continues unabated? If so, every citizen should understand that any time they are stopped by the police, the encounter has a distinct possibility of ending in their death.

Perhaps the way to resolve the current carnage in the streets of America is to clearly define protocols for police engagement with American citizens.


Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com