Red & White, Blue On Black

As a Canadian, with recent events in the USA, there is a tendency to view “Blue On Black” shootings as a unique issue to the USA’s “Jim Crow” heritage.

It occurred to me that this isn’t terribly fair; Canada has is own MacBethian hand stains, as pertains to First Nations.

So, I did some research.

Canada does have its own list of people killed by law enforcement officers. 133 people have died in Canada — for whatever reason — as a result of the actions of police.

But … for comparison to the USA … that number is since the year 1950. Total. That is about two a year. By comparison, in the the USA, as of yesterday it was 65 for 2016 alone.

Now, there are about ten times as many people in the USA, so you’d expect them to to have ten times the body count. The scalar is, instead, more than thirty (30) times higher.

At this point, you have to ask why. Ultimately, I think the issue is handguns. The police, all matters aside, are far more likely to encounter someone with a gun in the USA than in Canada.

How much more likely?

Per capita, 112 guns (of any kind) per 100 adults for the USA, and in Canada it is 31 per 100 adults. In 2015 alone, more than five million handguns were sold in the USA — 4 441 726 semi-automatic pistols & 725 282 revolvers.

In Canada, from what I’ve understood from friends who are RCMP, we worry more about a knife than a gun. Police here have to keep in mind that it could be the once-in-a-career moment where the suspect has both a gun and a willingness to point it at a cop, but … it is comparatively rare.

There is also clearly a training and staffing issue in police forces in the USA.

If, as a police officer, you are in a perpetual state of fear during a patrol, that means you either need more training or you need more officers with you.

The police officer generally has all of the cards, save initiative. They have the equipment, training, resources and experience … the only thing the suspect has is the ability to be stupid.

Stupid, however, should not be sufficiently frightening to a professional peace officer to prompt panic-fire. However, fear is the defence I’ve heard used according to the news in almost every case. That points to a serious training issue.

As a member of the Reserve military, part of our ‘Rules of Engagement’ for most of my career deployments were ‘do not fire unless fired upon’. We honoured that, and in three cases I was part of, it saved innocent lives. It comes with the job. You accept that when you sign up. Our training prepares us as best as can for the situation.

I don’t profess to have answers to the USA’s problem. I can only point at numbers and talk about my own experience, as a Canadian. Right now, the USA is in trouble. I hope, for the sakes of many of my American friends, that someone finds a solution sooner rather than later.