The recent sentencing of two young men for assaulting an Olympia police officer in 2015 is a fresh reminder that police sometimes see no choice but to use deadly force against unruly suspects.
It is also a reminder that the use of force should be sparing. Use of deadly force is a raw topic for many police officers as well as communities that have long histories of bad experiences with policing.
That is why we were gratified to hear Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts taking Donald J. Trump to task for the president’s ill-considered remarks that, in effect, urged police to get rougher with suspects.
Roberts joined many other police leaders nationally and regionally who spoke out against Trump’s misguided remarks.
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“The president has recently made several comments regarding police use of force that do little to build community trust and potentially undermine the significant level of work being done by the Olympia Police Department and other agencies across the country,” Roberts said in a statement.
Roberts went on to say, in part, that Olympia residents can expect his department to deliver “procedural justice, fair and impartial policing and community policing.”
In sharp contrast, Trump’s love of strongman political figures is well established, as was his overt encouragement for supporters to use force against his critics at last year’s campaign rallies.
But there is little place for Trump-style tactics in modern policing. Enlightened officesr like Roberts know community policing works better. Roberts’ counterparts in policing in other South Sound cities share his interest in minimizing the use of force and to train officers in de-escalation techniques.
In the case of the 2015 officer-involved shooting in Olympia, the two African American men were shot by a patrolman during an early morning confrontation that followed a report of shoplifting and minor assault. The officer believed the two men were about to hit him with their skateboards when he fired his handgun.
One of the men, Bryson Chaplin, 23, was sentenced this week to 10½ months in jail for third-degree assault of an officer. His brother, Andre Thompson, 25, was sentenced to two months in jail for the same offense.
To Roberts’ credit, OPD followed up the shooting with increased training, and his officers put in many hours to build relationships with the community they serve.