Suicide by cop controversy

Columnist Kendall Grove

Columnist Kendall Grove

In the U.S., police protocol and brutality have been heavy topics for many years and even with newly implemented technology, the situation has not progressed much.
A former police officer has filed a lawsuit against the West Virginia Police Department after being fired for “not shooting and killing” a man during a domestic disturbance call last year. According to CNN, Officer Stephen Mader responded to a domestic disturbance call and found the suspect with a handgun and after asking him to drop the weapon, the suspect said, “I can’t do that. Just shoot me.” Mader also claimed that, “he didn’t appear angry or aggressive... he seemed depressed.”
After trying to get the suspect to drop his gun, Mader claims the two other officers arrived and “immediately shot [him] in the head, killing him.” In this situation, the suspect’s gun was not loaded, which was communicated to 911.
 According to Health Research Funding, guns are the most common weapon associated with suicide by cop and only one out of two times are the guns loaded. It’s estimated around 17 percent use fake weapons.
Although pointing a fake weapon at a cop is illegal, it shouldn’t carry a death sentence. By always resorting to lethal weapons, police are allowing themselves to be manipulated by suicidal individuals.
Just this month a 15-year-old boy in San Diego committed suicide by cop after bringing a BB gun to a high school parking lot. According to the San Diego Police, a suicide note was found inside the boy’s pocket.
Mader’s attorney, Timothy O’Brien, explained his position perfectly when he told CNN that, “Such restraint should be praised not penalized. To tell a police officer, when in doubt, to either shoot to kill or get fired is a choice that no police officer should ever have to make and is a message that is wrong and should never be sent.”
With fake and toy guns becoming more and more realistic, it’s important to seek other solutions to suicide by cop situations. Many non-lethal weapons are available that range from plastic, non-penetrating bullets to pain causing satellite disk waves. Some of these non-lethal weapons may not be the long term answer, but at least they are a step in the right direction.
Christian Ellis, CEO of a the non-lethal weapons company Alternative Ballistics, told The Marshal Project, “There wasn’t anything that really would have been practical and useful in a tense one-on-one situation like in Ferguson.”
Alternatives to lethal weapons are not suitable for every situation, but could create a positive impact if used in suicide by cop situations. It is typical of suicide by cop situations to escalate quickly before the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team is able to get to the scene.
In Mader’s case, he claims the entire situation was over in just 12 minutes after other officers arrived and shot the suspect. Mader also stated that, “as a Marine vet that served in Afghanistan and as an active member of the National Guard, all my training told me he was not a threat to others or me.”
The need for non-lethal alternatives to guns may be the only way to stop police from killing mentally unstable people in suicide by cop situations. The police should focus on the protection of everyone and mental illness should not rule out protection.