This is in reference to the officer involved shooting in San Francisco of Sean Moore on January 6, 2017.
This is the first time a body camera video of an officer-involved shooting is being made public by the San Francisco police.
The public defender Jeff Adachi stated that if the officers involved had crisis intervention training, they would have known not to shoot Sean Moore who is diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.
For me, this question is hard to answer because I can empathize with both sides, the officers and Sean Moore’s family.
It’s easy for us to armchair quarterback the situation and say the officers were out of line because we can’t see the immediate threat to the public or the officers’ lives. But just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Officers are confronted with extreme situations on a daily basis, mostly negative and often times life and death situations. I imagine it must be hard for them to wake up every morning, put on their uniform, and kiss their loved ones goodbye, not knowing if that will be the last time.
Officers are just like us with the same fears and biases and the desire to come home safely every day, so when confronted with an aggressive, non-compliant person, what do they do?
They follow their training and procedures to the best of their ability to keep the community and themselves safe. I say to the best of their ability because each person has different experiences that color their perceptions and dictate how they react. That’s their bias.
On the other hand as a mother who has a family member with mental health issues, I would be devastated if my family member was shot because of something they couldn’t necessarily control. I know that they don’t have a mean or malicious bone in their body and wouldn’t hurt anyone physically, but how can I expect responding officers who have never met them before know this? I can’t, but that’s my bias.
Officers’ training teaches them to react to aggression and non-compliance in a certain way, no matter who that person is and they are taught to assume “worse-case scenario.” That is that the person has a weapon (whether it’s a knife, gun, or their bodies) and the person intends harm. By thinking this way and not be taken by surprise, their chances of coming home safely to their loved ones increases significantly. As a human being, I can’t fault that logic.
Last August, SJ Police Chief Garcia invited the media to learn more about their use of force policies by putting them through several scenarios in their police training shooting simulator. The participants were given seconds to make life altering decisions and in most cases, they were either killed or they themselves shot an unarmed person. Granted, they didn’t have the extensive training that our officers do, but it allowed the participants to see the other side and how very little time you have in a highly stressful situation to make life and death decisions. Do you save others’ lives or yours?
So to answer the initial question, do I think crisis intervention training could prevent future shootings similar to this, yes I do.
I also stress that I say could and not will. I would like to add that we also need to add mental health, communication skills and understanding our implicit bias training to not only officers, but citizens as well.
We as citizens also have to understand how our biases effect our interactions with the police and community members. We are all human with our own issues, experiences and biases that color the way we think and act.
We, as a community, need to try to create empathy and understanding for each other and all citizens whether they wear sweats, suits, or uniforms. We cannot afford to be divisive and take one side over the other.
After all, we all have at least one thing in common. We all want to come home safely at the end of the day and spend more time with our loved ones.
Tuyen Fiack serves as the Deputy Director of Business & Corporate Development at FACES. She is a community advocate, as President of Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers for the last 5 years, implementing programs such as Campus Crime Stoppers and working with law enforcement and city officials to promote safety awareness programs throughout Santa Clara County.