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Can We Stop Police From Shooting Our Boys?
12/3/2014 3:39:14 PM

Jerome Taylor

Michael Miller
Staff Reports

Police involved shootings. When they occur communities become unravelled. Often violent protests ensue. Mistrust increases and the divide between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve gets wider. We asked a police office and a youth advocate in the community how police involved shootings may be prevented. Answers were elusive.

Charleston police Deputy Chief Jerome Taylor found it difficult to offer clear cut ways such incidents can be avoided. Each incident has to be assessed on its own merits because each involves different circumstances. Actions that may avoid deadly use of force in one situation may not work in another situation, he said.

So, much of what’s needed to prevent incidents like that which resulted in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Mo. has to take place before the incident occurs, Taylor believes. That means understanding the fears and emotions that contribute to deadly confrontations.

A common thread in many incidents of police involved shootings is mistrust, Taylor said. Police officers mistrust individuals who in turn are mistrustful of police. Taylor backed away from naming racism as a contributor in most confrontations where police use deadly force, but no one deserves to die and all involved want to go home at the end of the day. In many incidents everyone involved is fearful, he said.

As a law enforcement officer with about 30 years experience, Taylor said he is confident Charlestohn police officers try to be fair in their interactions with the public and take seriously their responsibility to strengthen police community relations. But he admits officers have to do a better job at de-escalating situations when confrontations occur.

The key to preventing deadly confrontations lies in mutual respect, he says.

Charleston County School Board member Michael Miller is a barber who has served as an advocate for youth almost two decades. He thinks education is that key.

Young people have to learn to respect police officers no matter who’s wearing the uniform, he said. But police offices also must be educated. He said he’s required to perform more hours training as a barber than police officers are required to spend at the police academy.

Many of Miller’s clients are young Black males. He tells them their tough approach to relating with police can be counterproductive.

“They need to know their rights when it comes to interacting with police, but I tell them ‘You ain’t gonna win a fight against an officer with a gun. Kids have to know they’re never going to beat that man with the gun. It’s not like a confrontation with one of your boys on the block,” Miller extolls.

“Every time there’s a deadly incident, the cop always wins. That means our kids have to change their behavior and their mentality. Beyond body cameras we may not be able to do anything to change the behavior of the police so we will have to have discussions with our sons. I’m going to have that discussion with my son,” said Miller whose infant son was born Nov. 15.

Taylor said the Black community must draw on all its resources to impact the incidents of police shootings. Religious leaders, educators and families all will have to come together to address preventing such incidents. Simply asking how to prevent them is just too shallow, he said.

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