GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- In the wake of two more police shootings that killed African-American men, the chief of police in Grand Rapids says recruiting new officers is now tougher, and a law professor says new policies could help.
"This is a big conversation that we need people to sort out so we don’t have this happen again," said Tonya Krause-Phelan, a professor at WMU Cooley Law School.
"We can’t be in a position where the police are automatically assuming that every person who’s in lawful possession of a gun is all of a sudden a danger and posing deadly force to the officer," said Krause-Phelan.
In quick succession this week, Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were killed by police officers, with videos of the incidents widely available on the internet.
A peaceful vigil was held Thursday evening at the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Battle Creek in response to the shootings.
Kause-Phelan says new policies could help avoid the seemingly growing number of officer-involved shootings. "We need to look at the big picture, but certainly we can’t rule out the fact that race is a factor," she said, "and men of color seem to be the primary individuals we see harm coming to."
"According to the Washington Post, last year we have 993 police citizen shootings," Krause-Phelan noted. "The numbers are staggering."
Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky says his department working towards hiring more women and minorities, but he said recruiting new officers is more difficult in the wake of incidents like this week's shootings.
The incidents, said Rahinsky, do not reflect the daily behavior of police around the country.
"Take the viral images that we've seen just even in the last 48 hours," Chief Rahinsky said. "There's 800,000 police officers in the United States and 18,000 police departments. As horrific as those images are, they don't represent a mere fraction of the hundreds of thousands of interactions that will take place today, that will result in positive outcomes where police officers are there to help."