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In a time where many are comparing the current racial issues of today to those of the tumultuous 1960s, the need for open and constant dialogue has never been greater.

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The movement Black Lives Matter has sparked national outrage over the unjustified shootings of African-American men by white police officers. While some desire racial equality for all, many are offended by the movement’s message, believing it should be ALL Lives Matter. And of course, there are the equally as terrifying shootings of police officers in response to the racial injustices sweeping the U.S.

Accidental Shooting?

In current news, the police shooting of an African-American caregiver, who was lying in the street trying to help an autism patient, has heightened the debate about the questionable levels of power law enforcement holds.

According to the local police union representing the North Miami officer responsible for the shooting, his actions were entirely accidental. They claim the officer had intended to shoot the patient, whom he believed was a threat.

Charles Kinsey is a behaviour therapist who, on Monday, was trying to calm down a 23-year-old autistic man in the middle of the street who happened to be holding a toy truck.

In response to the situation, a police officer ultimately opened fire because he believed the white individual with autism made a movement that looked like he was going to discharge a firearm and harm Kinsey.

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“This wasn’t a mistake in the sense that the officer shot the wrong guy or he thought that Kinsey was the bad guy,” explained John Rivera, the President of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, in a press conference Thursday.”The movement of the white individual made it look like he was going to discharge a fire arm into Mr. Kinsey and the officer discharged trying to strike and stop the white man and unfortunately, he missed the white male and shot Mr. Kinsey by accident.”

The video footage shows Kinsey laying on his back in the street, arms raised in  submission — suggesting to viewers that the police officer’s actions were unjustified. Rivera argues, however, that the footage of the incident is “being portrayed poorly.”

Kinsey has been hospitalized as a result of the incident. He suffers from a gunshot wound to his right leg after two or three shots were fired, according to his attorney.

Kinsey says that after being shot, he was flipped over and handcuffed. His attorney claims he was on the ground for 20 minutes before an ambulance arrived.

“Mr. Kinsey did everything right, let’s be real clear about that,” Rivera explained. Meanwhile it is reported that the police officer involved in the shooting “wishes nothing but the best for Mr. Kinsey and the officer is praying for his speedy recovery as are we.”
North Miami police claim the officer only chose to open fire after failing to negotiate, but Kinsey and his attorney say this explanation doesn’t add up.
“I took this job to save lives and help people,” the unidentified officer said in a text statement. “I did what I had to do in a split-second to accomplish that, and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.” He has been placed on administrative leave.
The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile began a period of national unrest that put the spotlight once again on police use of force, specifically against black men.
Eight law enforcement officers have since been killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge as a result of gunmen claiming they were reacting to the deaths of Sterling and Castile.
Kinsey said he was stunned by the shooting. “When he hit me, I’m like, I still got my hands in the air,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ ” Kinsey proclaimed he asked the officer. “He said to me, ‘I don’t know.’ “
Law enforcement had responded to a 911 call about an armed man threatening suicide. “Our officers responded to the scene with that threat in mind. We had witness statements that there was a gun. We had a 911 call with that same information,” North Miami police Chief Gary Eugene told reporters. “However, I want to make it clear, there was no gun recovered.”
Kinsey said his patient was holding a toy truck, not a firearm, and that he tried to explain that to officers. “As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not gonna shoot me, that’s what I’m thinking,” Kinsey said. “Wow, was I wrong.”

What To Do About These Situations

The police officer’s response stirs up a necessary conversation about police training and access to counselling and stress management techniques. Shooting should not be the first response to a dangerous situation, but put in the line of potential threat when on duty, have officers chosen to resort to using force as a result of fear? PTSD is clearly an issue at play here, and with the current anti-police climate, clearly affecting officers everywhere, it seems important that now, more than ever, we acknowledge and deem treating PTSD in police officers as critical.
In her article Police Suicide: Understanding Grief & Loss,” Beverly J. Anderson states:

More than any other occupation, law enforcement is an emotionally and physically dangerous job. Police officers continually face the effects of murder, violence, accidents and disasters. Rotating shifts, long hours and exposure to life’s tragedies exact a heavy toll on police officers and their families. The results are alarming: high divorce rates, suicide, domestic violence, heart attacks, cancer, depression and alcoholism. Law enforcement, the media, and the public foster the myth that police officers can experience trauma and violence without suffering any ill effects. Research has shown just the opposite: when stressors are prolonged and overwhelming, an individual’s ability to cope becomes difficult.

One solution is meditation. PoliceOne for instance, has investigated how the practice can impact and heal those living with PTSD. Erin Fletcher, regional Combat Stress Recovery Program director for the Wounded Warrior Project, says it “helps the individual increase contact with the present moment” so they aren’t focusing on issues of the past or concerns of the future, both of which can result in episodes of distress.

We did a story about a monk in Toronto who is helping police with meditation, see below.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health published a study in 2007 examining the effects of Transcendental Meditation on Vietnam veterans who suffer from PTSD and found that, over the course of three months, symptoms like alcohol use, high-startle response, emotional numbness, and anxiety decreased in those who used Transcendental Meditation.

It’s time to talk about solutions, not stir up controversy or publicize our outrage. How will we work together to find peace in a time of incredible fear?

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