El Cajon shooting: US takes new look at police culture

Shootings in El Cajon, Calif., Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C., capture the struggle of trying to change a deeply ingrained culture of policing to one that merges public interest and police concerns, law enforcement experts say. 

Published Sept. 28, 2016

Recent cases of officer-involved shootings of black men capture the struggle in trying to change a deeply ingrained culture of policing in the United States, police executives and law enforcement analysts say.

Three days after a police officer fatally shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla., earlier this month, the local police department publicly released footage of the shooting and invited the Department of Justice to investigate the incident. Within a week, officer Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

In Charlotte, N.C., a similar shooting took place on Sept. 20. The local police chief held off on releasing dashcam footage of the incident, saying that “transparency is in the eye of the beholder.” He relented four days later. By then riots had erupted across the city, forcing the governor to declare a state of emergency and call in the National Guard.

Each case provides some insight into the nation’s progress toward two things, analysts say: bridging the gap between police and their communities, and developing a culture of policing that merges the public’s and police interests.

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