Can’t we be more like Iceland?

Here are some lessons we are learning the hard way:

  1. There are too many instances of police shootings. The Washington Post has been keeping count: Almost 1,000 this year, and counting. Forty-one involved unarmed black men.
  2. Policemen too often have to make split-second decisions when they come upon situations, and determine if there are people, including themselves, at risk. Making that decision can be horrendously difficult; and a wrong decision can be lethal, either to themselves, innocent third parties, or to the suspects they encounter.
  3. Prosecutors are incredibly cautious about second guessing that decision with criminal charges. The latest evidence came Monday in Cleveland, Ohio, where a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who in 2014 shot to death 12-year old  Tamir Rice, who was holding a pellet gun. The decision was no surprise: The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had been releasing evidence along the way, outraging Rice’s family.
  4. We seem to be left, time and again, with the feeling that, as New Republic senior editor Jamil Smith said of the Cleveland shooting: “There are so many ways that this could have not happened.” Too many times, family and friends of victims are left feeling the police “shoot first, ask questions later.”
  5. Some police advocates justify that approach. But increasingly, there is a search for alternatives. In Chicago alone, police have fatally shot dozens of people in recent years. Just by way of comparison: Could we be more like Iceland? This month that country grieved the first fatal police shooting. Since it became independent. In 1944.