Police

Recent killings, by police, of police, show system in critical condition, criminal justice scholar says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Phil Stinson, Bowling Green State University professor in criminal justice, was in Washington D.C. working on a confidential project for the U.S. Justice Department. A leading expert in policing he spent his days in a windowless room. Still the news about two more killings of black men by police officers penetrated the meeting room. And then late Thursday, the news broke of five Dallas police officers gunned down by a sniper. The incident, which occurred at the conclusion of a peaceful protest, ended with the gunman dead after a standoff with the police. Was Stinson shocked by this? “Everything is business as usual,” he said. And that’s not good. “Everything’s the same. We’re in a powder keg situation. … It’s a mess and the hot summer doesn’t help.” With the advent of social media “we’ve reached a tipping point,” Stinson said. That was clear with the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. It continued with a steady stream of incidents, including the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Monday, and then the killing of Philando Castile in a Minneapolis suburb. While videos may document these incidents, Stinson said, they don’t provide a solution. “I honestly think the police in many parts of the country, especially urban areas … are engaged in combat policing,” he said. “They’ve come to think over time that they are dealing with people who are the enemy. They certainly treat black males as if they were the enemy. That’s a huge problem. Not only is there a fear of crime, but there’s a fear of black people.” These officers come into a traffic stop like the one in Minneapolis or the encounter like the one in Baton Rouge, “all amped up.” The way Alton Sterling was body-slammed shows that. “They wouldn’t do that to you or me. It’s just nuts.” Stinson added: “You can’t shoot police officers. We can’t have that.” He saw that in a Facebook post from a former student now in law enforcement in Texas. “He was posting this vile stuff,” Stinson said. “He should not go to work. He’s all fired up and angry. That’s not good when we already have people on edge thinking they’re going to be blown away.” Stinson also senses a lack of leadership in the civil rights movement, and the need for the kind of creative non-violence used in the 1960s. Violence is only going to deflect attention from the root causes, he…