“We have to change the culture one person at a time, one incident at a time,” said Cleveland Police Chief, Calvin Williams during a press conference about a father who shot and killed his toddler son during a domestic dispute early Tuesday. The man, whose name was not released, is allegedly a convicted felon who should not have owned or possessed any weapons. As Chief Williams put it, this tragedy may have been prevented if someone who knew about the weapon had called police.
We believe the “Should have said something” afterthoughts of family members, friends, and even neighbors are echoing louder and louder in the wake of these repeated acts of violence, such as the senseless shooting deaths of Las Vegas Police Officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck on June 8th. A neighbor of the two shooters admitted to reporters that she, “wished she had called police” on the shooters when they ranted about their plans to commit a mass shooting. Another neighbor, Brandon Moore, told the Las Vegas Sun that the shooters were “handing out white-power propaganda and were talking about doing the next Columbine.” Although police had visited this couple in February to follow up on some threatening remarks they reportedly made against a government agency in Indiana, at the time of the visit the detectives did not deem the couple a threat, but if more calls had been made, a clearer puzzle would have been formed.
The sad truth is that I could go on and on about what society could have or should have done to prevent a lot of the violence that has transpired over time, but my interest is in the future. How to move forward and finally, as society, learn our role in our own personal safety. Humans are not born trained killers. As such, anyone who commits these acts of violence will always show warning signs. Sometimes they are as obvious as the Las Vegas shooters’ and others not so much. So where do we begin?
MY VIEW ON THE STATE OF SOCIETY: As long as we have competent law enforcement, medical, and military personnel, we are safe.
While I agree that the competence of all our public servants is second to none, I believe that personal security starts with you. Pay attention to your surroundings, to what people are saying or doing. Am I asking you to become an overly paranoid or nosy human being? No. But take the time to listen to your inner self. That sixth sense that makes you get a funny feeling in your stomach or perhaps makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you see or hear something that just doesn’t seem right. Then, take the time to properly report it. Whether it be a simple click and a short explanation to YouTube about why you feel a video you just watched should be looked into, or a call to your local police station. Do it. It has proven to be an effective method to preventing horrific events such as the street vendor who notified police about the suspicious vehicle in Times Square or the aware citizen in a Minnesota town. When properly reported and investigated, bad things can be prevented.
GUN CONTROL AND RESPONSIBILITY: Much like a drunk driver, not the alcohol, is blamed for an accident that kills innocent people, the shooter, not the gun, is to be blamed for incidents that result in the deaths of innocent people. With that said, how the would be shooter obtains the gun that he/she will use to carry out an attack is something that needs to finally be resolved. Regardless of your political affiliation or beliefs, I am certain that now, more than ever, everyone can agree that the frequency of violent attacks has drastically risen. Now is not the time to continue the debate about the interpretation of our Second Amendment. “A well regulated Militia” is not stripped of its rights to keep and bear arms, but it is just that: Regulated. Enough lives have been lost because more than enough lawyers and law makers have been debating on words and interpretations. Stop the debates and start with actions. Gun owners need to also do their part by safeguarding their weapons to prevent minors from easily accessing them and also to minimize the chance of them being stolen.
PRIORITIZE SPENDING: Though we defer our safety to those in uniform, we limit their funding. Most police departments lack enough funding to hire the right amount of officers let alone to maintain an effective Community Policing program. Community Policing programs educate the community. We can’t change the culture without education. We can’t educate without funding.
This also applies to privately held companies’ workplace violence prevention programs. Chief Executives must recognize the vitality of funding a program that will effectively identify their business’ challenges and mitigate vulnerabilities through preemptive training that engages every member of their organization. Training just to check the box often does more harm than good. Training to maintain a culture that is inclusive and mindful of the employee’s well being is an excellent start.
Changing the culture does start with changing one person at a time. Start with yourself. Remember, you are society so in blaming society, you blame yourself.