By Gabrielle Garza
KU’s criminal justice department hosted “police use of force: an American crisis” at Schaeffer Auditorium on Feb. 23.
Chief John Dillon of the KU police department, Ashley Heiberger of the Bethlehem police department, Thomas Robinson, assistant professor in KU’s psychology department, Dennis Skayhan, the district attorney of Berks County and Chief Mark Talbot of Norristown’s police department attended the event.
Panelists were asked a series of questions by host Lindsey Runell, and then answered, drawing from their combined experiences and background.
Runell’s first question was, “Suppose you receive a call about an African American male that was just shot by a police officer, what is to be done?”
“We are trained to respond to every call, using the force that is necessary to make the arrest, judge the officer on the perception they had and the time of frame. We are trained to shoot if there is danger to any officer, or if you have no choice,” said Chief Dillon.
“Multiple shots by police officers is not the sole deciding factor. Distance is the biggest factor than the number of bullets, and the officer’s perception of the threat,” said Skayhan, in response to the question.
Chiefs Dillon and Talbot ended with a statement of rehabilitation and compromise. “We need more mental health counselors and rehabilitation for people with emotional issues. We do not always want to be the last resort,” said Dillon.
“Police officers come from a broad American culture. I feel that our country values rehabilitation but you can’t separate what happens between policing and American culture,” said Talbot. “Not every situation with the police is about race. If you’re going to kill someone, the police are going to get you no matter what race you are.”
The second half of the panel’s talks involved questions and responses from the audience.
Natasha Romamof, freshman criminal justice major, spoke to the panel during the question and answer session. She said, “They say the statistics are a huge part of the problem with crime today, I was trying to ask why they thought were scared of the police, but the truth is, I think I fear them because the statistics of crime are so high.”
Talbot advised the audience in his closing statement. “Fight the police if you want to, but if you do it on the street, you are going to lose. You will not win. Don’t be mad at us for doing things wrong, recognize us when we are doing things right,” said Talbot.