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Better training for all; a law enforcement perspective of a deadly shooting

Posted at 10:15 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 08:38:44-04

Retired Kent County Deputy Marc Faasse left law enforcement 20 years ago but the perspective as someone behind the badge remains.

Even he hesitates, however, to pass judgment on the video showing the deadly officer-involved shooting of Patrick Lyoya. He says it’s impossible to know everything regardless of what you've seen.

What he does know is better training is needed.

"I would hope that, number one, officers learn to assess a situation maybe a little better," Faasse explained. "Training needs to be expanded on the law enforcement side in the area of how different ethnic groups react."

He says understanding how a Black youth, particularly someone who is not from our country like Lyoya, perceives law enforcement officers should be critical to an officer's approach.

He says there's work to be done by the public too.

The NAACP Youth Council recently told Fox 17 they have training to know what your rights are when you get pulled over and they discuss how you should handle those situations.

Faasse added that it shouldn't be up to Black youth to figure it out themselves.

"I think it would help if police officers, either off-duty or retired, could participate in driver training courses," he said

He does want people to know that police officers are human and while that does not excuse bad mistakes he says there is an important distinction to keep in mind.

"The police more often run into unknown situations when they're dealing with citizens than the other way around."

73 law enforcement officers were intentionally killed in 2021 based on FBI data provided to CNN.

Statistics like that can impact an officer’s approach which is why Faasse says there's always a best course of action.

"Comply now, complain later," he remarked.

Ultimately though, he acknowledges police officers have the greater responsibility as they hold the most power.

"He is God's servant to do you good," Faasse quoted from the Bible. "That's the heavyweight on the shoulders of law enforcement."

Police-Citizen Interaction

This is an opinion article Faasse wrote following the George Floyd case in Minneapolis.

June 2020

“Recent events involving police, citizens, death, protests, and violence begs the question, “How do we fix this?”

"The simplistic, fatalistic response is that we can’t fix it, because this is a broken and sinful world; nothing will change until Christ returns. That ignores our obligation as Christian citizens to practice our faith and present the gospel to the world. That practice must involve not only our voice but our interactions with all of God’s children, regardless of our status or theirs: wealth, education, family background, race, religion etc.

"Regarding police-citizen interaction, I believe that education and training needs improvement on BOTH sides.

"The police need to be equipped with tools that will provide an accurate record of interaction with citizens, be that casual or official. Officers need to realize that they must be strong enough to not use force in many situations; that they will be held accountable if they violate established procedures, rules of conduct or existing laws. The badge of authority demands better behavior from its holders, lest he or she become the criminal element they are trying to subdue.

"But neither is the citizen free of responsibility regarding interaction with law enforcement. They need to realize that officers may have limited information regarding a situation, or their reaction may be influenced, especially by recent experience. Comply first, complain later. It’s better than ending up injured or dead. With proper recording in place, a legitimate complaint can be resolved with the citizen being educated or the officer being corrected and/or disciplined.

"Two incidents from my law enforcement career illustrate my point. In the first, I made a U-turn on a four-lane road to pursue a speeder. I had noticed a woman with a young child and a stroller crossing the road just ahead of where I began the U-turn. She complained to the patrol commander that I had made the turn in a reckless manner that endangered her and her children. The incident was recorded on the patrol car’s dash camera. When the woman was informed of this and given the opportunity to view the tape, she declined to press the issue, realizing, I think, that she had nothing to gain from a spurious complaint.

"In the second instance, I stopped a speeding vehicle on a lonely, dark stretch of highway the night after a fellow officer had been shot after stopping a vehicle involved in suspicious activity. In my case, as soon as we were safely stopped, the driver of the speeding vehicle leaned to his right and disappeared from my view for several seconds; long enough to retrieve a gun, if he had one. There were no reports of crime in the area involving a vehicle of that description. Given this information, what would your reaction be?

"What I did was attempt to educate the driver. I first ordered him to place his hands on the steering wheel. Then I slowly approached him with my weapon drawn but not visible to him. His initial response was to ask what he had done to evoke my command. I asked him why he had leaned over. He told me he was just retrieving his paperwork (registration and insurance papers). I asked him how I was supposed to know that and if he were aware of the news reports of an officer being shot the previous night. He told me he was aware of that situation, then the light came on and he realized that I thought he might have been reaching for a weapon.

"Law enforcement needs to be held to a higher standard of obedience to the law because their job is to enforce that law, not use it as an excuse to hand out gang style justice. In the same vein, however, citizens need to realize that the criminal element does not bear the mark of Cain to identify them as such. Officers deal much more with the unknown regarding their contact with citizens than citizens do in their contact with police.

"Police often have only seconds, or fractions thereof, to make life or death decisions regarding use of force, especially when deadly force is an option. Supervisors, prosecutors, the courts, and the public, have days, weeks and months to scrutinize a situation and learn information unknown to an officer at the time of an incident.

"Excessive use of force by police, whatever its outcome, cannot justify violence and rioting by any element of the public. Protests may be legitimate and even called for to call attention to improper behavior of any public official at any level of government.

"But what is the outcome if the protestors involve themselves for a few hours, days or weeks and then fade from view? How many follow up the protests by writing letters to local, state or federal government leaders? How many take the time to vote?

"There are plenty of areas where the police can interact with citizens, not because they are responding to a call, but because they want to get to know the people they serve. I believe that law enforcement must take the lead by initiating casual interaction with those they serve. Wouldn’t it be nice if an officer could stop at a ten-year-old’s lemonade stand without Mom running from the house to ask what’s the problem?”

Marc Faasse
Kent County Sheriff’s Dept., May 1973 – February 2002

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