Criminal justice expert on police shootings: Causes and solutions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After the Albuquerque Police Department revealed new details and trends in recent police shootings on Thursday, KOB 4 spoke with New Mexico State University Criminal Justice Department Head Dr. Dennis Giever about why there’s been an increase in such incidents and what possible solutions may be. 

Giever said some of the causes of the high number of police shootings in New Mexico include not enough training for officers, increased tension during interactions and the negative effects of the pandemic impacting citizens. 

“Just because it’s trending up, people automatically say that’s law enforcement’s fault. They’re doing something differently, or they’re doing something wrong. That’s not necessarily the case,” Giever said. 

He said other stressors on members of the public, including the use of drugs and alcohol, are contributing too. 

“Everything from mental illness to unemployment rates – all factors that contribute to unrest or a lack of trust,” he said. 

Giever believes some incidents today wouldn’t have escalated into gunfire a few years ago. 

“How do we stop that? It’s not law enforcement is wrong or the public is wrong, it’s more of an interaction effect between the two,” he said. 

He said we do know a lot about possible solutions, including more research to help us learn from specific incidents. 

“Start trying to unbundle what it is that seems to be working for police department A versus police department B,” Giever said. 

Additionally, more police training is needed for many departments, including in de-escalation.

He said, because fewer people want to become officers, some departments are lowering minimum requirements and hiring officers who may have not made it through years ago.  

“I’m a huge advocate for increasing the professionalization, we’re actually slipping backwards,” Giever said.

More efforts from officers to get out in the community, so people aren’t only seeing them when something is wrong, is also helpful. 

“Law enforcement should be seen as a partner instead of an adversary,” he said. 

Giever added that the focus isn’t only on officers. The public can help with how citizens interact with police and the positions they put them in.