Posted By • July 26th, 2016

I am a member of the LGBT community, and considering the long, sad history of confrontations between LGBT folks and the police, I feel I must speak up. Now, seeing all that has happened recently involving police shootings, I want to make two specific proposals to reduce the carnage. (One today; the other next issue.)

Why are we (and by “we” I mean black men) in so much danger today from police? Here is what I see: Young men are trained as policemen; then they are given a service weapon and sent out into the street to “enforce the law.” Now… police work is boring – 98% of the time – but there is that other 2% – which is a frenzy of fear, panic and life-or-death battle for survival. When that 2% comes upon him, that young officer finds that his judgment (and what little training he received) is drowned in a sea of testosterone, telling him “Kill the aggressor! Or you will die!”

Though I am sure there are plenty of racist cops out there, I do not believe this is a problem attributable primarily to racism. When that young man (a cop) hits the 2%, he naturally reaches for his service weapon – which he is trained to carry on his hip in a holster, easily available at an instant’s notice Well, more like 1.8 seconds, as the Tamir Rice killing showed us.

Then, we see his service weapon is (usually) a 9mm semi-automatic holding 14 or 15 rounds. So if that officer is pushed to start firing, he has a huge number of bullets he can fire, and every one of them is lethal. Just one round can easily kill (see Tamir). That is way too much lethal firepower to put in the hands of an easily-excitable young man hopped up on T.

Here is my proposal: Police officers should be armed with a weapon which is “non-lethal,” and that weapon should be the “Go-To” weapon he turns to first when he hits the 2%. The first weapon he reaches for should NOT be one that is lethal, or that holds 15 rounds.

(Now, I am not suggesting the officer should be sent out into the streets without his side arm – in our society, today, that would be madness. I AM suggesting that his side arm should not be the officer’s ONLY – or primary – weapon.)

What is the value of a non-lethal Go-To weapon? Well, if the officer pulls the trigger (and then regrets his action), it is much more likely the citizen will not be killed. So unnecessary deaths are avoided. Next, we see all-to-many cases where a drunk guy with a knife starts advancing on a cop, and the cop reacts by firing several 9mm rounds, killing him. Well… that drunk didn’t need to die. A Go-To weapon with a high “shock value” would have stopped him without causing death.

Right now, when a cop is confronted by an angry, threatening man, that officer can choose to use just his own strength and training to subdue the attacker (maybe using his nightstick), but that choice will often result in the two of them wrestling on the ground. At this point, the officer will rightly become fearful that the attacker will take his own service weapon away from him – and he will get shot with his own gun (a not-uncommon occurrence). So instead of getting into a wrestling match, the officer will often draw his 9mm and start firing – killing the man.

In this example, if that officer had, instead, carried a non-lethal – but painful and shocking Go-To weapon – he could have used “non-lethal force” to make the arrest, and he would have avoided both a wrestling match and a shooting.

What do I mean by a “non-lethal” weapon? We all know about rubber bullets used by police doing crowd-control at a riot. Usually these bullets are fired from an ordinary pump action shotgun, and they deliver a shock to the rioter without causing a fatal injury. However, we cannot expect a cop to routinely carry a shotgun during his shift. It would be too heavy and unwieldy.

We need to ask our firearms industry (we can ask the NRA to help) to do some serious research and product development, and come up with a weapon an ordinary cop can carry with him. One that will cause that angry man to be shocked – No, hurt! – enough that he will stop his attack, but without killing him.

If we can spend billions of dollars every year on military weapons (designed to kill) why can’t we spend a few dollars to develop non-lethal weapons? Weapons that can be used by our police to keep us safe – without (un-necessarily) killing us?