On July 7, two Bellingham police officers confronted a homeless man with a knife outside a McDonald's restaurant on Bakerview Rd. You can read the Herald article on this incident here. In many communites in the U.S., that man would now be lying in a morgue, a victim of bad police training and a "shoot first" mentality. Instead, after some initial success calming the individual, he was hit with bean bags and a taser before being taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation. Charges are pending [against the individual], but the police officers ended their shift without the terrible burden of having killed someone. The infotainment industry had to move to other stories to keep their ratings. Police doing the right thing is not nooze for them.
This is the way it is supposed to work. Our police are trained to de-escalate confrontations by speaking first and using graduated force if at all possible. Having spent almost seven years as a volunteer with the Bellingham Police, I can tell you that our police receive a good deal of training. Moreover, the culture is not them vs. us (public vs. police). The culture I encountered was evident in the everyday conversations I heard in the halls and offices of the police department building where employees let their guard down and I moved freely. The public was not viewed as the enemy.
We need a good police force. I think we have one, but I have not hesitated to voice my concern if I think they are doing things that will undermine the trust they must maintain with the community. That is why I questioned some aspects of the police response to the so-called "riot" of October 2013. That is the reason I protested the acquisition of the intrusive and questionably reliable software (Intrado) the department wanted to purchase in 2014. I have spoken to our police chief about these topics on many occasions and found him open to considering options, although we do not always argree.
Our police have a difficult job given our location, where impoverished and desperate people bounce off the border to the north, land in our city and turn to drugs and pandhandling. The proximity of several First Nation tribes, a large group of young university students, Hispanic workers, and immigrants from throughout the world can easily produce mis-communication based on cultural or language differences. By using some form of the Use of Force Model (the one pictured above is used by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) all police agencies can substantially reduce fatal outcomes to armed confrontations. It works.