Newark, NJ — Police in America have a shooting problem. If you doubt this claim, simply compare the 1,116 people killed by cops in the Land of the Free — in 2020 alone — with the amount of citizens killed by police in other countries. This problem is not unique to areas with high crime rates, low crime rates, different regions, or population density, indicating that much of the shooting has to do with mentality, training, and lack of accountability by police officers. Luckily, there are some departments who want to see that change.
Two years ago, after making headlines for holding children at gunpoint among other issues, the Newark police department began a de-escalation training program. Officers were trained in using tactics other than violence to resolve potentially dangerous situations, and it appears to have worked.
During the entire year, not a single one of Newark’s 1,100 officers felt threatened enough to pull the trigger on their firearms. Not a single bullet was fired and given the fact that over 1,100 citizens were killed by cops in other departments, this statistic is vital.
Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose credited the lack of bullets fired to the de-escalation program implemented in Newark two years go.
“These things, it takes time for it to work. And I think it worked,” Ambrose says.
Indeed, it appears to have worked. According to New Jersey 12, the true test of that training was on May 30 during a Black Lives Matter protest in which about 1,700 people swarmed a precinct in an attempt to take it over. Not one shot was fired during the incident and nobody was severely injured.
Aside from the protests, police officers reportedly went into dangerous situations — up to and including facing off with armed felons — and they resolved them without firing a single round. This is impressive to say the least and speaks to the unnecessarily violent nature of other police departments around the country.
What’s more, since the training began, the crime rate in Newark has decreased, highlighting the fact that neither state-sanctioned violence or the threat of is necessary for a more peaceful society.
This is good news on many fronts and Newark should be used as an example for other departments. Newark must stay vigilant in their non-violent practices however, as these tactics in de-escalation tend to wane after a few of years.
As TFTP reported five years ago, Salt Lake City Police Chief Michael Brown decided his town had seen enough officer-involved shootings and retrained his officers in de-escalation of force techniques. It actually worked — and like the situation in Newark — officer involved shootings in Salt Lake plummeted.
The de-escalation tactics seemingly wore off that time period in which police violence dropped. In 2020, cops went back to their old ways.
De-escalation was of no concern in August when tensions became so high among police that even an unarmed little autistic boy was considered a threat and fair game to fill with holes.
As TFTP reported at the time, Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old little boy with autism was having a bad after his mother returned to work for the first time in a year. Cameron suffers from severe separation anxiety and when his mother left, he went into a crisis.
Linden’s mother, Golda Barton said she called police that evening and requested a crisis intervention team (CIT). She told them her son was not armed and was in the midst of a mental breakdown and she needed help to get him to the hospital.
“I said, he’s unarmed, he doesn’t have anything, he just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,” she said. “He’s a kid he’s trying to get attention, he doesn’t know how to regulate.”
Nevertheless, when cops showed up, one of them fired a dozen times at an unarmed child, hitting him with multiple rounds.
The cops who shot Linden were given similar training to that of the Newark cops — which worked for a few of years — but was quickly forgotten. Hopefully, cops in Newark and other departments across the country start focusing more on de-escalation and peaceful dispute resolution before another 1,100 citizens are filled with taxpayer funded bullets again in 2021.