When there is a noticeable increase in violent crime – as there has been in Fort Wayne in recent months – people start questioning whether the city is really as safe as they had thought it was. They have meetings, pray, go on fasts, march in the streets, demand official responses.
Surely the same sort of mental anguish afflicts the police community when there is a dramatic increase in the number of officers involved in shootings, as there has been in recent weeks. How dangerous, they might be asking themselves, is it to keep going about my job?
There have been two deaths by police shootings just this week and four this year, involving nine officers firing their guns, a record in recent history:
On Thursday morning, 22-year-old Ryan Koontz was killed at his home in a gun battle with four officers after police were notified someone in the house was under the influence of drugs, was behaving irrationally and had access to a firearm.
On April 27, police said, two officers killed Tavontae Haney, 19, after he fled from a traffic stop, turned and pointed a handgun at the officers.
On March 29, two police snipers killed Kenneth Knight, 45, after he shot a woman to death and barricaded himself inside a house with a 3-year-old boy as hostage.
On Feb. 20, an officer killed Stephen O’Neal Wattley II, who was armed with a rifle and suspected of robbing a nearby drugstore, in the stairwell of an apartment building.
With so many shooting deaths so close together, some will wonder if police training is adequate. Are they doing the right things, or are they too quick to shoot? But others, considering the level of violent crime, will give thanks there are still those on the front lines to “serve and protect.”
Most of us don’t think about it often, but every time police are involved in a shooting – even a non-fatal one – officials review each detail of the incident in minute detail, to make sure the right steps were taken at the right time. Sometimes, though, it’s appropriate for the whole community to get involved in the review process. This is one of those times.