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Less Force



I read Thadeus Greenson's article "Under the Color of Authority" which appeared in the Feb. 16 issue of the Journal with more than casual interest. Police brutality is a problem that has troubled me for a long time. The thing that concerns me most is the rule that police are allowed to use deadly force when they feel their lives are threatened. If the police and their unions maintain that the use of force is "reasonable and justified, in line with police standards and training," the officer is considered innocent. Community review groups using the same standard fail to convict him. The courts will not charge him.

Plainly, if an officer shoots an unarmed man, he is guilty of murder. But in our crime-infested streets, where each encounter is plagued with nervousness, anxiety and the danger of possibly being killed, it is easy to misinterpret what is life threatening and what isn't. We learn every day how the police mistake the actions of citizens and end up killing them. The use of lethal force generally is uncalled for because the police cannot be depended upon to make an accurate decision. Years of prejudice and discrimination have muddied the waters. If an officer does not have to accept responsibility for what he does and can kill without consequence, the public will be rightly outraged.

An officer's tone can either raise or lower the level of violence. If an officer insists that the citizen instantly obey his every command, he is likely to provoke resistance rather than compliance. Especially in minority youth who usually don't have a positive image of the police. And with good reason. The police have often targeted, insulted, intimidated, battered and killed their parents and brothers and sisters.

Police training manuals need to be changed to exclude deadly force in many vital areas. A lot less killing would take place if they were.

Fred Mazie, Eureka

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