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LETTERS

Addressing the warrior mentality in police

In this image made from Windsor Police video, an officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va. Nazario, a second lieutenant in the US Army, is suing two Virginia police officers over a traffic stop during which he says the officers drew their guns and pointed them at him as he was dressed in uniform.Windsor Police via AP

Eliminate vehicle stops altogether for minor violations

I agree with Scot Lehigh (“Police must be guardians, not warriors,” Opinion, April 16) that a different model of policing would reduce the number of incidents such as that of Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario in Windsor, Va. But if that change in training and attitude happens, it will be a long time before there is any effect on police behavior. A quicker way to modify policing for better, safer outcomes may be to eliminate vehicle stops for minor non-moving violations, including equipment failures such as broken taillights, burned-out headlights or brake lights, and unilluminated rear license plates.

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In Massachusetts, the law would have to be amended to allow police officers to mail vehicle owners citations for minor non-moving violations. A ticket mailed to the owner of the vehicle would achieve the same result as a stop, correcting the violation, with less chance of danger to the driver or police officers. Instead, enforcement by police for more serious moving violations, such as operating under the influence, speeding, and reckless driving, which risk public safety, may be increased.

Stops for non-moving violations are often used to do informal criminal investigations looking for and trying to control illegal drugs and guns. Numerous studies have shown that only about 2 percent of these stops result in arrests for more serious violations. These studies also show that the drivers pulled over tend to be disproportionately Black. Eliminating these stops would substantially reduce the opportunity for tragedies to occur when police interaction with civilians results in the use of force.

Raymond Dougan

Lexington

The writer is a retired Boston Municipal Court judge.


Officers’ aggressive tactics escalate these incidents out of control

Scot Lehigh’s excellent column “Police must be guardians, not warriors” clearly illustrates how out of control these incidents have become when police officers confront citizens on the streets and highways in any given city or town. The examples of law enforcement overreacting in such cases continue to occur with frightening frequency, and the story line in these situations appears to be strikingly and tragically similar. The stark common denominator is that these incidents involve motorists or pedestrians of color.

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The examples are too numerous to cite, whether they involve an individual making a purchase with an alleged counterfeit $20 bill, or a young man driving with expired registration plates, or someone simply walking down a sidewalk. Just as commonly, the result is a needless loss of life.

Rather than resolving an issue in a calm, respectful manner, officers escalate these incidents by their aggressive and adrenaline-fueled use of combative actions, which in so many cases can be avoided.

All police agencies across our nation need to be seriously overhauled and all training methods and protocols examined and altered radically to promote a demeanor that is not threatening, regardless of a person’s appearance or behavior. Police indeed need to be taught to be guardians, not warriors brandishing pepper spray, tasers, and guns to resolve issues that more often than not are minor infractions of the law.

Ian von Franckenstein

Medford


Put Justice Department on the case, every case

Police killings of Black and brown Americans show no signs of abating despite calls for deep police reforms. President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland could do something now to change police use of force overnight: announce that every police killing in this country of a Black and brown person, no matter the circumstances, will immediately lead to a Department of Justice civil rights investigation.

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The Justice Department has many thousands of lawyers. The FBI also could be part of these investigations. But the key is that Justice Department-led investigations take place, which also may include state and local investigators.

We have a crisis in policing. These killings are a public health emergency that strike fear into every Black and brown citizen who has any interaction with police. Let’s raise the bar, and no matter the merits, and without prejudicing outcomes, investigate every Black and brown death at the hands of police. The result would be fast change, to the betterment of policing and our society.

Michael F. Crowley

Belmont

The writer is a criminal justice reform advocate and is a former senior fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and a former criminal justice policy expert with the White House Office of Management and Budget.