Current events call for look at policing

As a 21-year resident of Keizer, I must have come of age.

Seriously, I’m an adult citizen who cares about what happens here with interests that include local policing. A timely event was the Keizertimes interview with Keizer Police Chief John Teague. (Policing with minority perspectives in mind, June 12). The chief said that he possesses empathy for persons of color with whom he is acquainted, while details on what “procedural justice” and “agency fairness” mean came up short in terms of specifics.

Study of policing in America have revealed some grim findings. Research finds that U.S. police officer killings during a typical year add up to 31 for every 10 million. Our population is close to 330 million while simple arithmetic reveals the astonishing total annual number. Meanwhile, in two western European nations, Germany and the United Kingdom, Deutschland finds one killed by police for every 10 million; the U.K. comes in at .05 per 10 million.

Our police are more likely to encounter other Americans in possession of firearms and are trained to respond pre-emptively. In the U.S., the threshold for use of firearms is much lower than those in virtually all of Europe. Here, a police officer can use his weapon when he believes there’s a good reason to do so or thinks his life is in danger. In Europe, police officers infrequently carry a firearm weapon and use it only as a final resort.

American police training requires about 20 weeks while classroom education and field training in Europe averages two years. Those who argue for a longer training program see a need for more education in the classroom and in the field here in the United States. Another difference here is the availability of surplus U.S. military equipment.

Of course, used desks and chairs, file cabinets and the like help save city budgets. However, armored vehicles, battle helmets and body armor convert a local police force to combat military, resembling those serving overseas against enemy forces. American citizens are Constitutionally given freedoms of assembly, speech and peaceful protest. 

It appears timely and appropriate to hear from Chief Teague as to what the people can count on from him and our taxpayer-funded police officers in the administration of their sworn duties to protect and defend. Has the time come—as with some U.S. communities elsewhere in trial mode—to “defund” (defined here as a highly diversified public safety workforce, emphasizing community policing) some public safety funding dollars so the future better serves all of us?