Police Using Discretion Vs. Going Overboard: What’s The Solution?

Police using excessive force while in the line of duty is a growing concern for many Americans.

On Thursday, a new viral clip surfaced showing a Lancaster, Pennsylvania police officer deploying a taser into the back of a male suspect — later identified as Sean Williams — who was sitting on a street curb.

According to the Lancaster Bureau of Police, officers responded to dispatch call citing a disturbance by Williams, who reportedly went after a group of three with a baseball bat.

Despite the officer’s claims that Williams’ refused to comply with their repeated request to sit down on the sidewalk, Lancaster Mayor, Danene Sorace stated the officer’s use of his taser is “of great concern,” and currently under investigation.

The encounter not only adds to a growing list of incidents where police have used excessive force but also highlights the need for strengthening accountability and trust between law enforcement and community members.

So what’s the solution?

Through the years, a number of programs have emerged, including the Rookie Responders initiative. The free class, which is offered by the Fulshear, Texas police department, created for new or soon-to-be drivers to help them get acquainted with police officers during a traffic stop.

Supplying officers with the necessary tools to have a better sense of discretion also aligns with Oakland-faith leader and activist, Pastor Ben McBride.

McBride is known for his efforts to improve community relations and reform policies with police through his Oakland-funded, Empower Initiative.

In 2016, the Bay Area Pastor made headlines through a viral clip, where he was seen scolding Richmond, California Police for pulling a woman over and impounding her car for expired registration tags. The woman’s tags were reportedly outdated for nearly a year.

According to California’s Legislative Information website, by law, the consequences of driving on expired tags in California is a $25 base fine plus penalty assessment. However, a car can be impounded if the driver continues to drive with expired tags six months from the date of their first citation.

Though McBride admitted that the officer’s actions to pull the woman over were justifiable according to the law, he felt authorities should have used better “discretion.”

“I think the officer should have used discretion to listen to the narrative the woman was sharing around her issue and the medical issue that we’re facing the loss of her vehicle,” McBride told local CBS affiliate KPIX 5 a day following the traffic incident.

In the future, McBride hopes his Empower Initiative can serve as a catalyst for other communities to help repair relations with local authorities.

“Keeping peace preserved the status quo,” he added during his interview with KPIX 5. “Waging peace and making peace is around moving forward to ensure that we have justice for those who are most marginalized, and those who are most vulnerable.”

“This idea we have to be pro-police, or anti-police, we are pro community, and we want to encourage our law enforcement officials to meet us in that area,” he said.

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