Train the Brain, Not the Aim


It seems like every day there is yet another police shooting taking over the media.  

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It’s no doubt that being a police officer is a demanding job that requires intense physical and mental training. Citizens depend on police officers to protect and serve, but when innocent people are murdered or caught in the crossfire, it begs the question of whether or not police officers need more training in order to prevent innocent people from being killed.


In the early hours of Oct. 12, 2019, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew when Fort Worth police received a welfare call from her neighbor because her door was cracked open. Officer Aaron Dean was dispatched to perform the welfare check and shot Jefferson through her window, killing her instantly. What should have been a routine welfare check ended as a homicide because of a rookie officer’s actions? 


Fort Worth police have confirmed the officers responding to the call did not make an attempt to knock on Jefferson’s door or identify themselves as police. Instead, Officer Dean immediately walked around to the back of the house and entered the backyard and a few moments later fired the fatal shot that took Jefferson’s life. 


According to stated procedures, Dean should have approached Jefferson’s house from the front, and loudly announced himself instead of creeping around the back without announcing himself, as per the standard for welfare checks. Dean shot and killed Jefferson as her eight-year-old nephew watched her die. 


Events like these shouldn’t happen. After all the countless officer-involved and high-profile shootings in the U.S such as Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. These two individuals were both black teens who were unarmed at the time they were shot.


One would think that there would be a new or higher standard of training to prevent future people from being killed, and ways to train officers on when to use lethal force. Unfortunately not.

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According to Apex Officers, in the state of Texas all officers after graduating from the police academy must take a de-escalation training course, and update their training every two years, in addition to diversity training and any specific investigative training their department deems they need. 


In one of the press conferences held by Fort Worth Interim Chief of Police Edwin Kraus, he explained that officers dispatched to Jefferson’s residence “believed they were responding to an open structure call, said Chief Kraus, “not just a welfare check.” 


The officers were dispatched to perform an “open structure call,” even though her neighbor requested a welfare check. Officers are to approach open structure calls with increased caution. 


“An open structure [call] depends on what the officers believe at that time.” If they think the structure is open due to somebody breaking in, that would elicit one response,” Kraus said in the press conference. “If they think it’s just somebody that left their door open that would elicit a separate response.” 


Open structure is a very vague term, and the officers should have been properly informed by the dispatcher exactly why they were dispatched to Jefferson’s house. A serious miscommunication contributed to Jefferson losing her life. Dean not only violated policies on the use of force, but he may not have had the proper training to prevent this terrible tragedy from occurring since he was commissioned as an officer in 2018. Chief Kraus promised swift justice telling reporters, “there is absolutely no excuse for this incident, and the person responsible will be held accountable.”


There is hope to stop more senseless murders from occurring. Campaign Zero, a police reform campaign created in 2015, has drafted policies for police departments to implement into their own use of force policies. These guidelines include holding officers accountable and introducing new training policies for police departments to ensure officers are well trained on the appropriate use-of-force techniques. According to Campaign Zero, “the current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. For example, police recruits spend 58 hours learning how to shoot firearms and only eight hours learning how to de-escalate situations. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities.” 


It’s evident that if we want to keep our communities safe, we need more de-escalation training and use-of-force training for police officers so this mistake doesn’t continue to happen. One life lost due to unnecessary violence is already too many. If Dean had tried to de-escalate the situation before firing his weapon, Jefferson would still be here. While police departments protect and serve the nation, there are steps they can take to reduce the amount of officer-involved shootings. The Fort Worth Police Department has handled this tragedy very well and is taking steps to bring in a third party to analyze their policies and make changes to improve and prevent further shootings from happening in the future.


Every Officer-Involved shooting From 2018: