Safe and effective de-escalation procedures might have prevented the May 7 killing of yet another black man. As can be seen in the police officer’s body-camera video, best practices were not followed by the officer when a civilian’s behavior clearly showed that he was suffering a crisis. The 2018 killing of Robert Lawrence White, who exhibited symptoms of mental distress as an officer accosted him as he strolled through his own Silver Spring neighborhood, also could have been avoided. Enough. The death of Finan H. Berhe was avoidable, and we need institutional change in our police department.
Gina Cerasani, Silver Spring
Laurel Hoa, Rockville
Steven Sellers Lapham, Gaithersburg
The writers are members of Showing Up for Racial Justice — Montgomery County.
The May 18 editorial on “suicide by cop” was unfair in its suggestion that the Montgomery County Police Department should have used policies promulgated by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to somehow prevent a recent “suicide by cop” of a suspect armed with a knife. The PERF suicide protocol is generally realistic but dangerously incomplete.
The protocol suggests backing away, creating safe distances and engaging in conversation. These are all tactics used by Montgomery County Police Department and attempted in this tragedy. Unfortunately, PERF does not address issues such as this one in which the suicidal person will not communicate with police, rapidly aggresses, and retreats from the officer and poses a threat to the community at large. De-escalation is often lauded as the best police response to almost any event; unfortunately, to be successful, de-escalation requires cooperation of the violent actor.
A research group for police executives should not be the sole authority on law enforcement use of force. Actual practitioners, such as the National Tactical Officers Association, might provide more realistic input.
John Converse, Rockville
The writer, a police officer, was a member of the Montgomery County Crisis Intervention Team.