Latest Police Shootings Raise More Questions About Police Training, Tactics

Jul 9, 2016
Originally published on July 10, 2016 6:05 am
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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

The fatal shootings of five police officers at a peaceful protest in Dallas came days after two black men were killed by policemen in Louisiana and Minnesota. Their deaths raised more questions about police training and tactics. We're joined now by Doug Wyllie. He's editor of PoliceOne, a publication for law enforcement. Thanks for being with us.

DOUG WYLLIE: Good morning to you, Lynn. Thank you for having me.

NEARY: So from what you know, what you can observe, did you think the police in the shootings that we witnessed this past week - did they handle the situation correctly?

WYLLIE: Well, first let me start by saying my thoughts and prayers are with Dallas PD and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police, as well as all of the police officers across the country who are mourning. Our hearts are broken for them. In regard to the two shootings that led up to this individual assassinating those five and wounding those seven in Dallas, we know very little - at least I know very little - about the one in Minnesota.

Let me address the one first in Louisiana, Baton Rouge. We had a call, man with a gun. Two officers arrived. They find a person who fits the description who had been indicated by dispatch. That person resists lawful commands. That person then is, it looks like, tasered on the videotape, resists while going to the ground. And it appears that he begins to reach for what cops would reasonably believe to be a gun 'cause they know that there's a man with a gun call.

We have to remember that most of Americans don't really understand the Graham v. Connor decision of the Supreme Court and the objectively reasonable standard. And the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the hindsight of 20-20 vision hindsight.

One of the limitations of cellphone video, or even on officer cameras, is that you cannot perceive the totality of the circumstances at hand 'cause it's a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional, dynamic, rapidly unfolding, high-stress situation. For example, the officers on the scene...

NEARY: I'm going to have to interrupt you. I'm sorry, I'm going to have to interrupt you. We have about a minute left. In a minute, I'm going to ask you to just very briefly - I just want to follow up by saying do you feel that the perception police are using excessive force against African-Americans and minorities is justified? Very quickly if you can.

WYLLIE: But I think that some folks in the mainstream media use instances of force to press a narrative that there is excessive force against African-American men in particular. I think that what you find in law enforcement is that the individual, the subject determines the level of force. And whether or not that person is black, white, maroon, purple, the level of force is determined by the actions of the subject.

NEARY: OK, thanks so much, Mr. Wyllie. I appreciate your joining us this morning.

WYLLIE: Thank you, Lynn.

NEARY: Doug Wyllie is editor of PoliceOne, a news site for law enforcement. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.