Readers React: Police are suffering from the same syndrome that drives the Parkland students — fear of being shot

Black Lives Matter protesters hold candles during a vigil and demonstration on March 23, in Sacramento, California.
Black Lives Matter protesters hold candles during a vigil and demonstration on March 23, in Sacramento, California.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

To the editor: It was L.A. Police Chief James “Two Gun” Davis” (1926-29; 1933-39) who proclaimed he would “hold court on gunmen in the Los Angeles streets; I want them brought in dead, not alive, and will reprimand any officer who shows the least mercy to a criminal.” (“’Please give us justice,’ slain man’s family says” March 27)

Today, we must understand that across the nation, fear of being shot, not policy, drives police shootings on the street.

A cellphone does not look like a gun, unless your gun is a quarter-inch wide rectangle. And you don’t have to be holding anything; hands in the vicinity of your “waistband” — a spatial concept approaching the Major League strike zone — suffices.

Ironically, the police are suffering from the same syndrome that also drives the Parkland, Fla., students and the millions who joined them in the March for Our Lives. In a perverse reversal, however, it is the police who control the lethality the marchers are trying to reduce.


Mitch Paradise, Los Angeles


To the editor: In 2017, police in the United States killed 971 people, according to a Washington Post database. Police departments provide officers with body cameras and dashboard cameras, and mobile devices are ubiquitous, still police killings proliferate. Now, amid murkiness, the Sacramento police have killed Stephon Clark.

An on-scene officer heard saying to mute the recording is tantamount to evidence tampering. It coincides with the findings of a survey of 75 police departments by Upturn and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which found that body-camera policies didn’t promote transparency, protect privacy, or defend civil rights. Yet only 51% of the departments have changed their policies.

Officers who tamper, destroy, or cut off police-issued video/audio equipment should be fired.

Marc D. Greenwood, Camp Hill, Ala.


To the editor: I am generally a supporter of the police and no fan of Black Lives Matter, but we have a serious problem with police shootings and how often police get off. “I felt threatened” should not be a valid excuse. The threat must be real and credible to any reasonable person. A cellphone is not a gun. A wallet is not a gun. Police know the difference, or should.

Next, 20 shots? Some have said that is in department policy. If so, it is very bad policy. There were two police officers at a distance from the suspect and sheltered by the corner of a building. There was no threat to their lives and no need for even one shot.

The rules have to be: If you don’t see a gun, don’t fire. If police outnumber the suspect, don’t fire. If police have distance from the suspect, don’t fire. If police are sheltered, don’t fire. If you don’t like these rules, resign.

William N. Hoke, Manhattan Beach


To the editor: Ahem. Excuse me, so sorry for disturbing you by kneeling during your displays of patriotism, but yet another unarmed black man has been shot to death in his own backyard by the police because they thought he had a gun.

Arthur Peck, Los Angeles

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