What Went Wrong In Brooklyn Center

A retired police chief and I had a conversation about the events leading to the shooting death of Daunte Wright by Kim Potter, a Brooklyn Center Minnesota police veteran who has now resigned. He had some interesting observations that I’d like to share.

The chief, who wishes to not be put in the spotlight so Im not identifying him, says the genesis for the tragedy can be clearly seen on the body cam video. He says Wright should have been quickly handcuffed and not in front of an open car door which, he says, was an invitation for him to ‘’jack rabbit.”

The door, he says, should have been kicked closed. He should have been taken to the rear of the car and put in a position that made it unlikely that he could have run. Or made to lay on the ground with his ankles crossed so he could be handcuffed without fear that he’d take off on them.

In other words, he says, the situation should never have escalated to the point where Potter pulled a weapon.

But when it did get to that unfortunate point, the officer and her partners still had opportunity to prevent it becoming a lethal incident.

He says cops are supposed to carry their guns near their dominant hand. Tasers are supposed to be holstered near their passive hand. This is to prevent an officer from pulling their gun by mistake.

Then, he points out, Tasers are colored differently than guns. They grip differently. They weigh differently. All by design to avoid tragedies like this one.

Finally he wonders why her partners didn’t catch her mistake before she pulled the trigger. One of them, he says, should have stopped her from shooting by telling her she had a gun in her hand, not a Taser.

I’ve talked here before about police training. I’ve interviewed training reform advocates. Most recently a retired NYPD cop who says officers should be trained in martial arts so suspects can be restrained without permanent damage. The chief agrees, suggesting that if the cops were unsure about how to quickly handcuff Wright, they could have grabbed his wrist and gone for a pressure point which would have caused him some pain but would have made him passive with no lasting injuries.

It’s good that these ex-officers are speaking out about training reform. But active police officials need to lend their voices, too. If they don’t, there won’t be meaningful change.

Mistakenly shooting someone with a gun while going for a Taser occurs about once a year. But other tragedies take place on a much more regular basis.

Just today there are these stories that are overshadowed by the Brooklyn Center killing. But they are no less tragic.

  1. A white police officer from Wisconsin who was investigated and cleared for shooting and injuring a black man during a domestic dispute has returned to duty.
  2. Cops say a 16-yr-old shot and killed by police in Maryland was armed with an air gun and a knife.
  3. The family of a 13-year-old who was fatally shot by Chicago police have been shown video of the killing. But it’s not being released to the public, at least not yet.
  4. The DA says in another police-involved fatal shooting that took place in California last week the guy the cops shot was holding a fake gun.

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