Important lesson in Minny death
No one disputes that the death of a woman at the hands of Minneapolis police was a terrible mistake. There was no ill intent.
Nevertheless, Australian Justine Damond, who had been living in Minneapolis, is dead. She leaves behind a grief-stricken fiance and scores of people who remember her as a wonderful woman.
She was shot by a police officer on the night of July 15 — after she summoned help when she heard what she thought might have been someone being assaulted.
Already, her death has illustrated shortcomings in how some police officers and departments have responded during the past few years to multiple accidental shootings by officers.
One recommendation stemming from the earlier deaths was that law enforcement personnel wear body cameras to record their interactions with the public. Obviously, the idea there was either to corroborate or refute officers accused of negligence or misconduct.
But both the Minneapolis officers involved in Damond’s shooting were wearing body cameras. They were turned off.
Investigators have been told by one of the officers, who was driving the squad car that night, that as they cruised down a dark alley in response to Damond’s call, that he was startled by a loud noise. Soon after, Damond approached the car — whereupon the other officer shot her through the driver’s side window.
It will be some time before the investigation is concluded, of course.
But one thing seems likely: After hearing a loud noise, then seeing someone approach the squad car, one of the officers fired his weapon instinctively, fearing he and his partner were at risk.
The two lessons, then, are first that officers on duty should have their body cameras turned on at all times, if they are so equipped, and second, that better training to help officers handle stressful situations without, in effect, panicking is needed in some departments.
Easy to recommend, hard to do, of course.
But unfortunately, what law enforcement officers do often places them and innocent bystanders in jeopardy. Unless we do better in minimizing that risk, there will be more needless deaths.