Continued Deaths of Black Men at the Hands of Police Must Stop
Washington, DC — In the wake of the senseless shootings of both Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Trayford Pellerin in Lafayette, Louisiana, it is clear to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) that Congress must immediately pass legislation that implements national use of force standards by police. NASW also calls on Congress to mandate that all law enforcement agencies follow those standards.
We also insist on immediate reforms in emergency response policies.
Police shot Mr. Blake seven times in the back while three of his children looked on. It seems likely that he will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. The most problematic aspect of this, and other similar violent police encounters, is that the victims posed no apparent public safety threat to individuals or the community. That he was shot in the back is evidence that Mr. Blake posed no direct threat to the officers. Clearly the police had alternative options to managing the situation other than excessive force resulting in severe lifelong disabilities.
Almost completely overshadowed by the Kenosha shooting is the death of Mr. Trayford Pellerin at the hands of the Lafayette, Louisiana, police only a few days prior to the Kenosha incident. The officers responded to a disturbance by a man allegedly carrying a knife. Mr. Pellerin, who was at the scene, fled. He was tased and shot over 10 times while walking away. Mr. Pellerin died a short time later. Again, it is unclear as to what crime Mr. Pellerin committed prior to this lethal encounter.
No words of concern on the part of NASW will heal Mr. Blake’s wounds or restore Mr. Pellerin’s life. However, we must express as vehemently as possible that this senseless bloodshed must end.
The tragic outcomes of both most recent police encounter incidents could have been avoided by using arrest diversion, de-escalation tactic, and alternative responder strategies.