We need better policies governing the use of lethal force by police.
On the heels of the fatal shooting of Manuel Jamines by members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), cities around the country should grapple with this issue.
The killing of Jamines on Sept. 5 sparked nights of protest in Los Angeles. Jamines was accused of holding a knife and refusing to drop the weapon, though at least one eyewitness denies he had a knife when he was shot.
Jamines was from Guatemala, and he was killed in a low-income Latino and Filipino neighborhood where tensions with the police have been high. It is one of the most neglected and impoverished in the city.
Let us not forget that it is taxpayer money that pays the LAPD “To Protect and to Serve.” We must remind law enforcement to provide suitable services to create safety and trust, not just in affluent areas, but also in poor areas.
While the officer who shot Jamines was himself Latino, LAPD command staff totals 117 members and only an estimated 14 members are Latino. This is not congruent with the demographics of Los Angeles, which is almost half Hispanic.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck have an obligation to establish an independent, in-depth investigation to bring answers to the community.
But this issue is much bigger than the LAPD.
Police officers in departments around the country have used lethal force in questionable circumstances.
Here are three of the most notorious in the last couple of decades.
On Jan. 1, 2009, a white transit officer in Oakland, Calif., shot and killed Oscar Grant, a black man, while he was being subdued on the ground.
Back in 1991, a Salvadoran immigrant was shot by a black police officer and rioting occurred for two days in the Mt. Pleasant area in Washington, D.C. Lack of bilingual police officers and cultural insensitivity had built up into distrust and antagonism between the community and the police department.
Of course, we cannot forget the savage beating of Rodney King by four white police officers. These officers were acquitted on April 29, 1992, and the community was so outraged that rioting lasted for three days resulting in many deaths and more than $1 billion in property damages.
City councils and police oversight commissions must devise clearer and more stringent policies for the use of lethal force.
Let’s just hope and pray that these types of shootings can be prevented in the future through the implementation of better tactics to subdue or disarm individuals who pose a clear and present danger to civilians and police officers.
Otherwise, the distrust and disrespect towards police officers will only continue to rise in poor communities.
That’s the last thing we need.
Randy Jurado Ertll is author of the book “Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience” (www.randyjuradoertll.com). He can be reached at [email protected]