Train police to disarm suspects

Daily Editorial Board

Last week, Burnsville Police fatally shot an armed man named Map Kong in an encounter outside a McDonald’s restaurant. Someone had reported Kong’s behavior as suspicious, and after officers reached the scene and surrounded his car, he came out with a knife.
 
 
We believe this shooting represents another failure of our police system. Today’s police officers are equipped with numerous nonlethal weapons, including pepper spray, Tasers, stun guns, rubber bullets and tranquilizers. Given that so many non-lethal options exist, we find no reason why officers needed to use their guns to subdue Kong. 
 
 
Faced with knife-wielding criminals, police officers in countries like the United Kingdom learn to disarm suspects using nonlethal tools. In fact, most officers in the UK are gun-free, and 82 percent of them don’t even want to bear arms. 
 
 
This isn’t a question of racial profiling or discrimination but rather one of proportion. If police officers have access to nonlethal methods and tools to subdue an attacker, they subvert justice when they choose not to use them. Police officers who neglect these nonlethal alternatives under pressure need more training in order to help them discern between appropriate degrees of force in different situations. 
 
 
The police deserve our respect. They have difficult jobs, and they face the unique challenge of operating within the laws to help attain justice. Nevertheless, the case of Map Kong shows that the way in which the police system subdues certain suspects needs important reforms.