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Identity & Community

A Former Officer's Perspective on Appropriate Use of Force

For as long as there has been law enforcement, there have been arguments over how much force police reserve the right to use.

These arguments have come to dominate the national conversation in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. This conversation has spread to Pittsburgh, in the form of regular protest demonstrations focused on local issues.

Sheldon Williams is a former Pittsburgh Police Officer and a member of the Citizen Police Review Board who answered some of the  lingering questions about the use of deadly force by police.

Williams said that he was somewhat skeptical about Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s testimony.

“It’s a huge jump from telling someone to get on the sidewalk to the termination of life, and for me to try and understand what has happened there I really really drill down and try to understand it, because its a such a huge leap.”

Based on his experiences, Williams said, for police in any situation, the ultimate goal is to maintain control.

“There are three things that police officers are required to do when they’re on the scene or in the course of their duties:they have to gain control, maintain control, or regain control. So when you look at it from a control aspect, officers are trying to make sure that individuals have a safe environment in which to live and work.”

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