Thin blue linesWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | email@example.com
When even the chief of police says the amount of citizens killed by police in a year is “very high,” you know there needs to be a conversation. That number, five, was described as “very high” by Toledo Chief of Police Michael Navarre in response to the Dec. 14 police shooting death of Linda Hicks, 62.
A few years ago, I completed the FBI Citizens’ Academy program. One part of that training was a simulated fire arms encounter with targets leaping from all directions. Even under a safe training situation, with absolutely no real danger, my adrenaline flowed at a reckless pace. That insignificant moment does not put me anywhere near the shoes of Diane Chandler, the officer who shot and killed Hicks, but it gives me enough perspective to know very few people are qualified to judge what happened that day.
In close quarters with an obviously agitated person wielding scissors, Chandler responded with the ultimate force. Hicks’ death is the greater tragedy in the situation, but Chandler’s life has been irrevocably changed and she will need a great deal of support from the community she has sworn to protect.
As one person commented on our Web site, “I am a police officer and have never known any police officer who had to use deadly force who was not emotionally affected by it. Killing another person is never taken lightly. Officer Chandler did what she had to do during a rapidly developing situation. All law enforcement officers know how deadly edged weapons are. You were not there so you naysayers are in no position to judge this officer’s reaction. Too many of us have died and Officer Chandler lived to return to her family.”
Still, it will be important for Navarre and his team to realize that many Toledoans will not show tolerance for this incident, and there will be a lot of negative energy directed at them in the coming days.
In the wake of four officers being suspended for drug and alcohol violations, Hicks’ death and the grim toll of five do not flatter the Toledo Police Department. But any rush to condemn the department as a whole is misplaced. Our police are understaffed and face budgetary restraints that make their jobs much more difficult than they need to be. That is not a blanket excuse for poor judgment, but it does set an atmosphere that makes one of the toughest jobs even tougher.
By all appearances, Navarre has been open and transparent about his department’s issues, but perhaps one of incoming mayor Mike Bell’s “safety first” priorities should be a full vetting of the department, its needs, its funding and the gap between the two. A full look at how the department operates might reveal areas that can be shored up and improved, and might help set priorities. Surely, in a city where so much attention and energy is directed to how the dog warden conducts his business, there should be interest in making sure the police are operating at the best of their abilities.
Such an investigation is not an indictment of Navarre and his staff, but should instead be viewed as an opportunity to improve the bottom line for Toledo’s thin blue line.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.