Beatrice Police Chief Bruce Lang says there are more than 17,000 police departments nationwide and in some cases, officers may be overly aggressive. But, he says cell-camera recordings often make a situation look worse than it actually is.
“If we’re arresting someone at a local bar on Saturday night and he’s been asked to leave and he won’t leave and he wants to fight somebody because he’s had a few too many to drink, we’re not going to arrest him with just one officer,” Chief Lang says. “We’re going to arrest him with two, three or four officers so it’s a lot less likely he’s going to get hurt but it’s also to make sure that we don’t get hurt.”
Lang says there’s usually more to the story when the determination is being made whether police acted properly. Often, when the full video is viewed in context, he says it becomes clear the officers were acting reasonably.
Because of recent highly-publicized incidents between police officers and the public, Lang says there’s likely some “baiting” of police officers while bystanders are at the ready with their cell phones.
Lang says, “People will have their cell phones out prepared and they will be either participants or friends of the participants and you see people doing things and you’re questioning, why would you do that unless you’re trying to get the officer to act in a certain way.”
The chief says the difficulty lies in the fact that there are multiple ways to defuse a situation and that’s where the skill set of the officer involved comes into play. A little more than a year ago, Beatrice police officers began using body cameras to help document contact they have with the public.
Earlier this month, a reserve officer in Oklahoma mistook his gun for a taser and fatally shot a suspect. Lang says his department addressed the potential for that situation a long time ago.
“Shortly after we deployed our tasers and started using them, we made the conscious decision to locate them in a place where they could not be mistaken for your gun,” Lang says, “because we had heard stories of that happening.”
Reserve officers in Nebraska go through a lot of training, he says, but that’s not the case in every state. Lang adds, “This job is not a hobby.”
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice