• J.R. Lonsway

8 Can't Wait?

This is so ridiculous I don't even know where to start. I would like to give the people who dreamed this up the benefit of the doubt and say that they were well-intentioned, but after reading the website and seeing that their cause is to fully defund police departments nationwide and ultimately abolish them, I can only conclude that clearly they possess no concept based in reality. In the meantime, they are throwing around these eight standards that they feel all law enforcement agencies should meet. They even present a model Use of Force policy, which reads, by the way, like every policy I've ever seen from any police department.


Of the eight items on their list, six have been on the books in Las Cruces over forty years. I know this because I joined LCPD in 1979 and retired in 2001. The only exceptions are the ban they request on chokeholds, which the department recently ended, and the Use of Force Continuum. The continuum was around for decades, but was changed sometime after my retirement by the director of the law enforcement academy in Santa Fe; however, the LCPD always had policy in place to insure that officers complied with acceptable use of force standards.


8 Can't Wait claims if the steps are enacted it will reduce police violence by 72%. First of all, it's not police violence. Police officers use force when violence is directed at them and whether it escalates depends entirely on the suspect. We have no control over their levels of intoxication, weapons of choice, or intent. Second, where did the stats come from to support the claim that incidents of use of force will drop 72%? And if that is the case, why are officer-involved shootings in Las Cruces at a higher capacity for a city its size than others?


The common public misconception is that bad or inadequate police training, or substandard police officers, leads to more shootings. The reality is that LCPD officers are well-trained in use of force issues. I want to know, and what the city council should be asking is, what's going on in our community that has promoted significantly more acts of violence against police officers?


If the answer is taking money away from the police and the responsibility that goes with responding to calls of mentally ill and/or suicidal people and invest it in mental health counselors, I support that. And get your wallets out, taxpayers, because it is going to cost. MDs and PhDs don't come cheap. The city could spend less hiring a counselor with a Master's degree, but it is still going to be pricey.


These mental health counselors would have to work shifts in order to be available immediately. Remember, if we are going to defund police for these types of services, and eventually abolish the police, someone has to bear the responsibility for answering those calls. If the presence of police officers is what sets people off, we can't be the ones responding to the scene. Better to send a mental health professional to speak with the gun/knife/sword/ballbat/chain/pool cue/crowbar/axe/hatchet bearing person causing the disturbance (I listed those weapons because I dealt with suspects over the years who bore those weapons). Should be a real blast trying to recruit people for the position! Good luck!!


There is more than one side to this equation, and the answer is not in a utopian mindset or in assuming that every use of force incident is the fault of the officer(s). All those weapons I listed above were in the hands of intoxicated, drugged up suspects OR mentally ill persons who were off their meds. Oh, and add one more weapon, the motor vehicle. Had a suspect try to run me over one afternoon, but at least he had a legitimate excuse (well, in his mind): he had a pound of pot in the car that he had just traded stolen firearms for, guns that were acquired in a burglary he had committed earlier. I was on foot and he accelerated towards me screaming "COME ON, FUCKER!" I fired three rounds from a .357 into his car. I was definitely in violation of policy which dictated that officers would not fire at, or from, a moving vehicle. I defended my actions in front of a shooting board, and the internal affairs investigator, and no wrongdoing was found.


There are exceptions to every rule, but by today's politically correct standards I would most likely be suspended without pay, if not terminated from employment, and there would be those who would want to hold me accountable for not trying to de-escalate the situation by just talking sensibly to the nice young man.

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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