Shaunte Southern is a Sergeant in Gaston County, North Carolina. He has served primarily with patrol and the SWAT team. In a recent essay he wrote for The Undefeated, he opens up about racism in law enforcement. He writes, “[t]o be honest with you, I think that African-American males are treated differently by law enforcement, and that’s my honest opinion. I think this fear of black men is real. As a black officer, sometimes you feel like people expect or want you to pick a side- when in fact you can be both pro-black or pro-police.” He traces this fear of Black men back to historical depictions of Black men as dangerous. Despite this sobering belief about our past and present, Southern expresses hopefulness about the future of relationships between law enforcement and the public. Though he believes that greater transparency has made it easier for police to hold each other accountable, he notes that more of this accountability is needed. He hopes that police officers will find more opportunities to interact with community members outside of their traditional roles, and that the public will be willing to learn more about the challenges officers face. Read the full essay here.
As the topic of police brutality becomes more widely discussed, police departments are taking proactive steps to reduce excessive use of force. In a recent article by the Washington Post, authors examine what it takes to reduce deadly shootings. Some measures being adopted by police departments include the adoption of clear strong policies, adequate ongoing training that provides opportunities to practice in scenario-based exercises, and changing the culture of departments to reward successful de-escalation. The article describes various police departments that have been successful in reducing the use of force using these strategies. To learn more, click here.
The fifth annual Law Enforcement Summit on Heroin and Fentanyl, hosted by NC Harm Reduction, was last week, as reported by News and Observer. Advocates and members of law enforcement from across North Carolina participated in the summit, which was held at N.C. Museum of History
Presenters gave valuable information on the dangerous impacts on increased fentanyl use and the real risk this drug creates for our communities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) fentanyl is a “powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50-100 times more potent.” Presenters from as far away as Massachusetts, offered first hand accounts of the programs they are successfully using to divert the drug addicted to treatment.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis) has sponsored federal legislation that would require police “to be trained on de-escalation techniques that focus on preserving life.” We strongly support this bill and her efforts and will track it’s progress at the federal level.
The legislation builds on recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum which has issued a report entitled “Guiding Principles on Use of Force.”
The bill requires jurisdictions receiving federal Byrne grants to provide training in:
- the use of alternative non-lethal methods;
- verbal and physical tactics to minimize the need for the use of force, with an emphasis on communication, negotiation, de-escalation techniques, providing the time needed to resolve the incident safely for everyone;
- the use of the lowest level of force;
- techniques that provide all officers with awareness and recognition of mental health and substance abuse issue
- principles of using distance, cover and time when approaching and managing critical incidents;
- crisis intervention strategies