Tragedy Again

A mother whose son was killed by officers speaks out

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Andy Lopez. The finality of Andy’s passing from this life, like that of my own son, brings another terrible wave of urgency that we keep our fingers on the pulse of what is happening around us, and that we express our love often, before it is too late.

Regarding the many unnecessary deaths by law enforcement, given that the policies in place bring cruel results, why do we let them continue? There’s something backward and very inhumane about shooting first then handcuffing the dying or already dead person and then administering first aid.

All lives have worth, so we must insist on policies that attempt to save all lives. To accomplish that, law enforcement officers must act under the assumption that people are not robots, but are thinking, feeling individuals. When weapons are aimed by police, and orders are shouted, we can expect that fear, confusion and a desire for self-preservation will be one natural reaction. A delayed response is another possibility, while the person is processing what is happening. It is not reasonable to insist under those conditions that commands must be obeyed or else the person annihilated.

How about talking to the person in question, in a nonthreatening manner? How about asking relevant questions?

The old refrains of “I thought he had a gun” or “It was a quickly evolving situation” just don’t wash any more. We pay officers to think on their feet and to be courageous. Responders must take an honest look at their part in how things evolve, and comprehend that by taking a threatening posture toward citizens, the officers themselves are escalating the situation.

I know the difference between a competent response by police and a disastrous one. I have had both. And when it was unexpectedly helpful, I took the time to say so to the responder’s supervisor. If police want to be respected and trusted in the community, they must not only be courageous and respect the people they are paid to serve, but also be truthful when things go wrong, and refuse to align themselves with indefensible patterns of conduct that give the whole profession a bad name. Let’s work together for positive change.

Adrianne DeSantis is the mother of Richard DeSantis, who was shot and killed by Santa Rosa police in 2007.

Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature in the Bohemian. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered, write [email protected].