Non-lethal solutions could reduce violence and praise the police action

By Montezuma Cruz

Expressão Rondonia

Non-lethal solution could reduce violence and praise the police action, says Montgomery County resident, in a proposal sent to Senator Ben Cardin.

Olney, 09/14/2023 — Citizen Samuel Sales Saraiva submitted a proposal for the consideration of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, suggesting the awarding of cash bonuses, extra vacation days, and decorations for exceptional professionalism to police officers who prioritize the use of non-lethal equipment, responding to calls from the population in a humanitarian way, causing no deaths.

Daring? Utopian? Be that as it may, Saraiva hits the nail on the head with his clearly feasible proposal that could heal the wound exposed in the relations between police officers and minorities: “Different representative segments of society, including citizens and the opinion-forming media, have been committed to seeking solutions to the worrying escalation of violence that causes the loss of human lives, imposing irreparable damage on us, and burdening courts across the country with million-dollar demands for reparation,” Saraiva recalled.

Twenty-four years ago, Saraiva proposed to Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski the adoption of tranquilizer darts to neutralize criminals, but the proposal failed because the use of anesthetics posed some risk to the life of the targets. However, it would be easier today — Saraiva points out: “All it would take is the political will to devise federal legislation that encourages the states to prioritize the use of the non-lethal technology that is readily available today. 

Police agencies would get closer to the population with this measure, eliminating the racial and ideological malaise that contaminates good police action, instead of causing more families to mourn their losses, by fighting death with death. It is fair and necessary to reward professional police action that abides by the law, avoiding the excessive use of force and the execution of suspects or criminals, in a demonstration of civility. However bad the crime, we can’t ignore the reality of the perpetrator and the possible problems they were facing, such as exclusion. We must look after their soul, their family, their life. When criminals have nothing to lose, because they are marginalized by society, what can we expect them to feel? 

Saraiva emphasizes that “it is up to the police to use all their resources to bring criminals alive to the judges, who have the proper abilities and competence to carry out the due lawsuit that may, or may not, result in death penalty, in the states where it is still adopted.”

Senator Ben Cardin, to whom the proposal was addressed, is a national leader regarding the issue of the environment, and is a tireless advocate of integrating respect for human rights into American domestic and foreign policies.

First elected to the Senate in 2006, in Maryland, Senator Cardin currently chairs the Small Business Committee that is at the forefront of national economic reconstruction. He is also a member of the Foreign Relations, Finance, Environment, and Public Works Committees in the Senate.

For Saraiva, if considered and implemented, the proposal would result in the pacification and reconstruction of “the frayed relationship of trust between the people and the police officers throughout the American Union, serving as a decompression valve for the latent feeling of fear at the psychosocial level, especially among African-Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Asians, Indians, immigrants, and the most vulnerable portion of the population, made up of the excluded and hopeless. 

It would create a climate of mutual respect and trust: “rewarding with cash bonuses the responsible and peaceful police action that does not result in death, even in situations of extreme danger, represents a well-deserved recognition of society towards agents of the public security forces, which would be a stimulus for humanizing and improving the methodology currently used.”

Below is the letter sent to the Senator, in full:


U.S. Senator from Maryland

Capitol Hill
509 Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington D.C., 20510

Olney, MD, September 11, 2023

Summary: Requests Your Excellency to submit to the US Senate Judiciary Committee the following proposals, with the aim to contribute to humanizing the police action against impoverished minorities, and immigrants: (1) The use of the non-lethal — or less lethal — technologies that exist today should be made mandatory in police actions, without affecting the use of lethal weapons in exceptional circumstances. (2) Police officers who prioritize the use of non-lethal equipment and take criminals into custody without killing should be awarded cash bonuses, extra vacation days, and decorations for exceptional professionalism.

Senator Cardin and Honorable Members of the Judiciary Committee,

Your Excellencies are in a position to understand that the correct reading of reality will always be the one that takes into account the voice of the streets, which conveys the most legitimate desires of a people, and is the source of political power.

For decades, the Executive and Legislative branches, represented by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over criminal legislation, have debated the issue of excessive use of force and truculence by the police without attaining the desired success. Different representative segments of society, such as citizens and the opinion-forming media, have endeavored to find solutions to the worrying escalation of violence, which causes the loss of human lives, imposing irreparable damage on us, and overloading courts across the country with million-dollar claims for reparations. Unfortunately, a reasonable and lasting solution that truly reflects the scope of the problem has not been achieved yet. This trend has imposed heavy suffering especially on ethnic minorities: African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and immigrants from the Middle East, who together make up the most vulnerable portion of the American population. Among the victims are veterans who have not received proper psychological care after returning from war, citizens with mental problems, drug addicts, and hungry people oppressed by poverty. A strong sense of inequality and exclusion tortures them mercilessly, pushing them to the limits of resistance on a daily basis.

Recently, a project mapping American social movements was carried out by the University of Washington. It cites 152 killings of unarmed black men and women by police and lynch mobs between 1945 and 1951. They are shown on the interactive map and detailed, one by one, in a report that the Civil Rights Congress offered as evidence to hold the United States responsible for genocide against African Americans. The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Against the Negro People (1951) is as relevant today as it was in its own time. The massive petition (over 200 pages long) was delivered to the United Nations in Paris, in December 1951, and sought to demonstrate that the United States government was in violation of the UN Genocide Convention. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide was adopted in 1948, after the Holocaust.

“We Charge Genocide” documented, in addition to the 152 murders, 344 other crimes of violence against African Americans and abuses committed by the United States against the human rights of its own citizens between 1945-1951. This represented only a small sample, since most of the crimes against blacks were not recorded.

The manifesto published by researcher Suzan A. Glenn pointed out that “in the past, the classic method of lynching was the rope. Today it’s the policeman’s bullet. For many Americans, the police are the most visible representatives of the government. Evidence suggests that the killing of blacks has become a police policy in the United States.” (pp.8-9) 

Research by the NGO UnidosUS, published on CNN on May 29, 2021, by journalist Nicole Chaves, revealed that “more than 2,600 Latinos were killed by the police in the six-year period prior to May 2021. Adrianne Murchinson, a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported on May 25, 2022, two years after George Floyd’s death, that “despite the summer of 2020, with its outrage and attempts at criminal justice reform, the number of police-involved fatalities has risen over the past three years. More civilians and police officers are dying during violent confrontations, or while in the custody of authorities.” Calls for police accountability have increased considerably among the Hispanic community in recent months, following the deaths of Latino boys and men in confrontations with the police.

Fear of interactions with law enforcement is not a new phenomenon, but the murder of George Floyd was undoubtedly a watershed, marking a rupture in relations between American police officers and communities long concerned about the unfair treatment of minorities by police officers and the criminal justice system. 

It is essential to adopt mechanisms to humanize police action, in order to restore public confidence in police officers, who must be protectors, and in order to reduce the number of deaths of civilians and officers themselves, based on the principle that “All lives matter.”

We are no longer in the days of capturing felons “dead or alive”. Today there is a deep awareness of the importance of respect for life in all democratic and advanced societies. Covert cruelty becomes lethal when psychopaths, pretending to be good and fair, infiltrate police forces in order to act in a cowardly and arbitrary manner. This causes irreparable harm to society, which does not accept corporatism fostering impunity, and it wears down the image of police organizations, which do not deserve to be denigrated by the isolated criminal actions of some of their members.

The two measures presented here can encourage the desired pacification and rebuild the frayed relationship of trust between the people and police officers throughout the American Union, creating a climate of mutual respect and confidence. If established, the cash bonus rewarding responsible and peaceful police action will be a well-deserved recognition from society for the agents of the public security forces, and a stimulus for the evolution and humanization of the methodology currently used.

It seems appropriate to recall that, exactly 24 years ago, I sent a proposal for the consideration of Maryland State Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, suggesting the use of tranquilizer darts by the police.

In the letters sent to me, Mikulski referred to the proposal as “very interesting”, while Senator Sarbanes assured me that he would ask for “careful examination” and refer it to the Judiciary Committee.

Journalist Frank Curiere reported the proposal on March 10, 1999, in The Gazette, a newspaper published in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, under the headline: “Wheaton resident proposes the use of tranquilizer projectiles by the police.” 

As I argued at the time, in some situations a police officer has more power than a judge, as the officer decides on the life or death of a citizen, without having the support material and the ability of interpretation that a judge has.

Finding intelligent solutions is a challenge to everyone’s conscience and reason. Force must be used only as an extreme last resort; the murder of a human being must be avoided at all costs. The use of non-lethal or less lethal options is rationally presented as a solution of an imposing nature. Implementing the proposal could make a significant contribution to the philosophical and practical objectives explained here. We cannot leave chaos as a legacy for future generations; it would be a shameful proof of incompetence.

The pain that punishes the victims’ families will only be alleviated with humanization, pacification and justice, starting with the adoption of changes without waiting ominously for other tragedies to unfold. 

I am confident, honorable senator, that the vision of your advisors and of the technicians of the Senate Judiciary Committee will detect in the cold letters of this message the expression of a cry for empathy and social justice, in the form of a response to resentment with a view to pacifying our society.

We have a responsibility to set a good example to other nations, on different levels, but especially in terms of respect and observance of human rights. We are a showcase for the civilized world and we cannot tolerate any kind of violence or abuse of power that undermines the principles of democracy that govern and inspire us.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, 

because I am involved in mankind. 

And therefore never send to know for whom 

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne, English poet of the 17th century

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