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Some cops wouldn’t be so bad if they were trained to be protectors instead of killers.

In light of all the questionable police work over the last few months, I’ve wondered what it is about being a police officer that turns what may have been an average, docile person into someone who solves all his problems with guns, tasers and lethal chokeholds. I’ve wondered what exactly they’re being taught that shows them it’s okay to be so quick to use lethal force, and more importantly, WHY they’re being taught this.

In 2011, Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, was beaten and tazed by officers for several minutes until he fell into a coma from which he never awoke. Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli detained him in response to a call about a “disheveled” man pulling on car handles. During the encounter, the officers asked him to sit down with his hands on his knees; being schizophrenic, Thomas couldn’t comprehend the instructions and didn’t comply. An officer eventually put his hands on Thomas, which prompted him to get up and start walking away. The officers then beat him to the ground with batons and, along with several more officers, assaulted him for several minutes, telling him to put his hands behind his back and stop resisting. Thomas fell into a coma and died in the hospital five days later.

There are two major problems here: Firstly, an unarmed man was brutally assaulted and killed with batons and tasers for simply not following directions. Why is it that noncompliance with police directions warrants the use of such force, even when the suspect shows no violent behavior? This rule assumes that all officers have the good judgment to direct people in the best possible way, when common sense tells us that’s not the case. Secondly, it’s apparent that the officers weren’t trained to deal with mentally ill suspects. If several men find it necessary to beat and tase someone who doesn’t understand what he’s being told, or doesn’t sit or lie a certain way, they’re obviously not ready to protect and serve the community as they should.

Fortunately, there are officers who can handle situations like these; officers who are actually trained to deal with noncompliance without lethal force. But it’s a shame that not all police departments follow a regimen that’s not so liable to get people killed unnecessarily.