By Mark Naison (July 11, 2016)
When approaching controversial issues, people bring personal experience as well as ideology to the table. My vantage point on the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Alton Sterling is very much shaped by my experience as a coach and youth program director. When I was coaching and running a neighborhood basketball program, I was given the kids everyone else was afraid of. I was their last hope. If they couldn’t work with me they were out of the program. I was tough and direct with them, but went out of my way to listen to them and understand them, and was able to talk them out of self-destructing when they panicked and lost their cool This is what the best police officers can do when they confront someone who is out of control. There are so many ways to get someone back from the abyss other than killing them. I think that could have been done with Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Alton Sterling. And we all would be in better shape, including our police officers
There is a human element to policing, just as there is to teaching, which, if properly directed and encouraged can save lives. Just imagine there was a beat cop in Ferguson on patrol who knew everyone in Mike Brown’s neighborhood and was respected, if not always loved, by everyone there. If he saw Mike walking in the middle of the street in a rage (which he was because his grandma was suddenly hospitalized), he would drive up beside him and say “Big Mike, chill out. I know you’re having a bad day, but I’m going to have to pull you in if you don’t calm down. If you need a ride somewhere get in the car, but you’ve got to get out of the street. OK?” If this was an officer everyone’s been the neighborhood knew and no one fucked with, chances are Mike would be alive today. But I suspect police officers in Ferguson were not trained or encouraged to play that role.