“The daily demands of policing require officers to make highly pressurized decisions (with associated rapid action) in unpredictable changing environments. It is important that new officers learn techniques of decision-making in a safe and controlled way, which minimizes the risk and harm to all parties while at the same time facilitating effective learning.” — Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice
I watched Trevor Noah’s response on The Daily Show to the footage depicting Philando Castile’s death by gunshot. Actually, death by gunshotS. He was shot in front of his girlfriend and baby girl by police officer Jeromino Yanez.
Somehow, despite Mr Castile complying with the officer’s orders, he gets shot. Four times. FOUR. The officer did tell him to stop moving, but Mr Castile was confused as he (I assume) was reaching in good faith for his ID & permit to carry a gun. Mr. Castile sounded nervous, not suspicious, as he had just told the officer that he had a firearm. I remember the first time I got pulled over. I was so nervous, I started confessing about what I had in my car at the time. My backpack is in the trunk, and I have a baseball bat because I play softball. The officer who pulled me over laughed at me, and sent me on my way. Why was Mr. Castile driving along with his family less endearing than me, a silly teenager? Why wasn’t his compliance and his girlfriend in the passenger seat and baby girl in the back enough of a sign that this beautiful family was not a threat?
Philando Castile’s death is tragic and unsettling. Unfortunately, he is not the first victim in a story like this and probably not the last. What makes this story different for me was hearing Trevor Noah’s response. He talks about how african american people have been fighting for justice. They fought for police body cameras and they got them. They fought for court hearings for their cases and they got them. But, justice, still alluded them. I feel sadness for the families, and for my black friends and their families in the moment. Yet, like everyone else, I return to my day and everyday life — until another young african american person loses their life.
I am shaken by this story, and more so by the video footage of yet another unjust shooting of a young african american male at the hands of a nervous police officer. Compelled to search for meaning in this tragedy, I started researching police officer training requirements and scholarly articles about criminal justice and police policies. I found a journal titled Legal and Criminological Psychology affiliated with The British Psychological Society. In it, an article titled, Effects of threat, trait anxiety and state anxiety on police officers’ actions during an arrest discusses results of a study they conducted where police officer’s anxiety states were measured in different scenarios and compared their performance in terms of their anxiety. They concluded that, “…state anxiety not only impairs performance of single perceptual-motor tasks, but also relevant accompanying skills such as communicating and applying appropriate force.” APPLYING APPROPRIATE FORCE.
My academic and professional endeavors have led me to the field of healthcare. Nurses, Doctors, healthcare providers across all fields come across the “difficult patient” several times over the course of their careers. Not to be crass, or make light of this story, but you don’t see doctors stabbing non-compliant patients with their scalpels. They are under high pressure, life and death situations, and they seem to keep their cool. They keep their cool because they are REQUIRED to. Any misconduct, and a doctor could lose their license or reputation or a patient could lose their LIFE. Anyone who works with patients is trained to show empathy, listen, reflect, listen carefully and do everything to calm the patient down. This article is a good example of guidance given to healthcare professionals. Why aren’t police officers upheld to similar standards?