The recent shooting deaths of two black men by police have reignited protests about police use of force. Both men had guns and police wrongly mistook them for suspects. On Thanksgiving a white police officer fatally shot Emantic Bradford, Jr., 21, at an Alabama mall. Earlier in November near Chicago, a police officer fatally shot Jemel Roberson, 26, a nightclub security guard who had subdued a gunman. Joe Loughlin, a former assistant police chief in Portland, Me., who wrote a book about deadly police encounters, says what’s needed is better police training and public conversation about how police work, reports NPR. He says most officers in such situations say, “I just had no choice I reacted to what was in front of me at the time.”
Criminologist and ex-police officer David Klinger of the University of Missouri St. Louis says that because police often have to make split second decisions in situations where guns are involved, good training is essential. “And one of the points of training should be that merely because an individual has a firearm or some other weapon does not mean that they are an individual who needs to be shot,” says Klinger. Pete Blair, who runs an active-shooter response training center at Texas State University, says that when police are under stress, “they may miss key identifiers that somebody is security or another police officer in there.” Criminologist and University of California law Prof. Franklin Zimring says African Americans are more at risk when it comes to being killed in police shootings. The reasons vary. Some studies say its a systemic culture of racial bias in police departments that affects officers of all colors, more than individual attitudes.