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Shooting death of deaf OKC man proves city needs better training, body cams

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
The Oklahoma City Police Department.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- On Tuesday night, Magdiel Sanchez, who suffered from developmental disabilities that resulted in him being deaf, was shot to death by an Oklahoma City police officer at the same time he was being Tasered by another officer outside his home.

Officers investigating a hit-and- run near his home approached Sanchez, who was holding a metal pipe, and the police quickly escalated the situation when Sanchez didn’t respond to the officers’ demands to drop the pipe.

Witnesses repeatedly yelled at the officers, explaining that Sanchez was deaf, but it was to no avail, and Sanchez, who had to criminal history, was shot to death.

OKCPD Captain Bo Matthews held a press conference the next day, attempting to explain the actions of the officers as a result of “tunnel vision” that an officer can sometimes get when they perceive a threat when they see a weapon. Sanchez’ weapon in this case was a metal pipe, and officers were 15 feet away when he was killed.

Sgt. Chris Barnes fired the fatal shot, and was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Significantly, both officers involved were not wearing body cameras, despite the city council voting for body cameras two years ago. Why are OKC officers still not wearing them? Put simply, the police union objected to their use, delaying their implementation.

The Fraternal Order of Police objected to a specific policy that would have allowed an officer’s supervisor to review body camera footage. An arbiter between the city council and the union sided with the union, and the footage review policy was removed, bringing the union on-board finally.

It seems beyond reasonable for an officer’s supervisor to review body cam footage for the purposes of seeing how the officer interacts with the public, and possibly identifying an officer prone to jumpiness, aggression, and violence, before that officer can seriously injure or kill someone that might not need it.

This should apply to Oklahoma City officers in particular, considering that an OKCPD officeris 20 times more likely to shoot an OKC resident than an NYPD officer shooting a resident of New York City.

Police in the United States kill far more citizens per year than any other Western nation.

According to the police shooting database, The Counted, 1,093 were killed by police in 2016,

And 1,146 in 2015. By comparison, England and Wales saw 55 police shootings during the past 24 years. The US saw 59 shootings during the first 24 days of 2015.

Training that results in the ability to better discern when deadly force is necessary and when it is not, along with de-escalation training, could have saved Sanchez’ life.

Research also suggests that the kill rate of American cops is so high due to the short amount of training time compared to other developed countries. Police in the United States train for an average of 19 weeks, while police in Germany train for 130 weeks.

Police unions have a tendency to get in the way of efforts toward more training and more accountability. In many instances, that resistance by a public union can result the protection of bad cops, keeping them on the street and putting citizens at risk.

In an issue as critical as public safety, maybe it’s time to question whether police unions should be removed from the equation entirely.

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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