What will we do about these tragedies?

In the last week, it seems like police shootings have been all over our TV screens. You’re not imagining it – in the last week there have been 3 fatal shootings by Queensland Police, bringing the total for this year to 6 shootings and 4 fatalities.

It is a double-edged sword and a topic of much discussion and controversy. There are so many questions. Who was in the wrong here? Who do we blame? Why did it happen?

This morning, Terry O’Gorman from the Civil Liberties Council spoke to Richard Fidler on 612 ABC about the latest police shooting on Monday night in Southport – the second in two days. He said that immediate action needs to be taken by the Crime and Corruption Commission as coronial inquests into fatal police shootings can take anywhere from 12 months to two years. He also said that he was unsure why tasers were not being used in these incidents as they were sold on the sole purpose that they would prevent police from drawing their firearm. “The police don’t need the trauma and neither do the families…Clearly there is an issue in the number of police shootings in recent times”, he said.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart also spoke to the ABC and defended police by saying that the QLD force receive 500,000 calls a year, meaning these rare occurrences are just a mere blip in the amount of crimes that police deal with annually. He admitted that the three fatal shootings in the past week by his police have affected the community’s confidence in them but wanted to reiterate that the very last thing that officers will do is pull their firearm and shoot. So is poor decision making to blame or is it lack of time to make any other decision?

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With these two conflicting opinions, who is in the right? Putting the crimes of the deceased aside and whether or not they were in the wrong, is it ever O.K. for the police to shoot someone fatally? Why can they not shoot to maim instead of kill? Apparently because they are being presented with a dangerous situation where they have no choice but to draw their gun and shoot where they need to.

I feel like it is a case of the police being trigger happy but then again, what would I know? I am just an outsider who was not there. So is it fair for me to say it was not right to shoot these three men dead in the last week? I guess the only thing I struggle to understand is why other tactics to apprehend someone with a knife weren’t used, i.e. tasers, batons or even the humble pepper spray. And like anything, isn’t it better to have someone explain their actions and have a chance to redeem themselves, instead of responding in a way that will scar both the family of the victim and the police officer? Again, the Queensland Police do believe their officers will do what they have to in the face of crime using any means possible, but is that satisfactory? Are we safe on the streets knowing that if we look like we have a weapon, the police may just shoot us to save themselves?

The shootings aren’t a great look for the Queensland Police, who have been compared in recent days to the Michael Brown case in America, where it is believed excessive force was used on a teenager. Today a verdict was handed down to Ferguson, Missouri officer Darren Wilson and he was cleared of all charges, causing riots to spark again on the streets of the US town.

It is clear that police are being watched carefully by the public now, with more and more crying out for something to be done. The question now is what exactly needs to change? The police’s mentality surrounding the use of their guns or the people who face the cops with a weapon?

Tell us your thoughts about the issue below. Do you think the police should do what they need to? What would you do if you were a police officer? Or should police officers use other means to apprehend someone they suspect of attempting to kill them?