When This American Life dedicated two episodes to law enforcement in the United States, they titled them, “Cops See It Differently.” Citing examples like the NYPD killing of Eric Garner, which gave rise to the “I can’t breath” protests, the show illustrated how police and non-uniformed citizens assessing the same incidents would draw wildly different conclusions even after watching video footage. Last year, I observed the same phenomenon when St. Louis, Missouri, police officers shot and killed Kajieme Powell in another videotaped encounter. Many cops saw a guy with a knife who didn’t drop it and a justified use of lethal force. Critics pointed out that there was never an attempt to deescalate the situation. A similar disconnect followed the Cleveland police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
And this week, newly released video footage is giving Americans yet another glimpse at how police are trained, their mindset, and how the results can be lethal. The killing happened last year in Dallas, Texas. The mother of Jason Harrison, a black man with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, called police to say that he was off his meds. She wanted help getting him to the hospital—something she’d received before without incident—and requested cops trained to handle the mentally ill.
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