There’s a reason so many of us refuse to entertain the “a few bad apples” narrative regarding aggressive and often brutal police officers who demonstrably become more aggressive on average when dealing with Black people. There’s a reason so many of us believe it’s America’s entire system of policing interrogated, investigated, and, possibly, dismantled and reformed anew.
Last Monday, Camden County Sheriff’s Deputy Buck Aldridge shot and killed 53-year-old Leonard Allan Cure, a man who had previously been exonerated after serving 16 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. As we reported Thursday, police surveillance footage released by the Camden County Sheriff’s Office shows Cure, who was pulled over for speeding and driving recklessly, was met by an aggressive and apparently furious Aldridge, who began shouting at him to “GET OUT” of his car before the deputy was anywhere near it. The video shows that Cure complied until he found out he was being arrested for speeding, which he said in protest should only result in a ticket. After a couple of rounds with a police taser and a physical struggle between the two, Aldridge fatally shot Cure, who had not been reported as being armed at the time.
“The officer got out of the car extremely aggressive, yelling and screaming commands, and my brother complied,” said Cure’s brother, Michael Cure. “He did comply, so after watching the video, I do believe things could have been handled differently, but I also believe the officer got out being extremely aggressive.”
The system of policing will likely determine that Aldridge did nothing wrong. It won’t do much in the way of questioning why Aldridge did indeed feel the need to arrest Cure rather than issue him a citation, which would likely have carried a hefty fine considering how fast Cure was reportedly driving. The system of policing won’t empathize with Cure, who had suffered the trauma of a false arrest resulting in him losing more than a decade and a half of his life behind bars. It also isn’t likely it will spend significant time questioning why Aldridge—like so many police officers, most of whom are not held accountable for excessive force—chose to escalate things with a citizen who thought his arrest was unjust rather than deescalate things, which police training is supposed to teach.
And that’s the same system of policing that gave Aldridge a job after he had been fired from his previous job as a police officer for—you guessed it—using unnecessary force during a traffic stop.
From News 4 Jax:
News4JAX obtained Aldridge’s personnel files and it showed that he was fired and given warnings in previous years working for law enforcement, and both involved traffic stops.
Aldridge’s career with the Kingsland Police Department began in 2012 as a peace officer. An employee performance review in June of 2013 said he needed improvement in his judgment and decision-making.
The comment underneath said, “Be calm, cool, collected.”
The next year, Aldridge got a warning for unnecessary force during a traffic stop. In his five years in Kingsland, he completed 618 hours of training including deescalation techniques, use of deadly force, traffic stops and more. Aldridge also had nearly 1,000 hours of training throughout his law enforcement career.
Tom Hackney, a retired director with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said training is constant for law enforcement officers.
“The more they’re trained, the better they’re going to be. So this could be a training issue. When you watch the video of what happened, this started off hot,” Hackney said. “As the victim suspect exited the car, both of them were at an elevated situation. I think that officer potentially could have toned that down a little bit, deescalated that from the start.”
Maybe it’s the attitudes and racial biases of overly aggressive and egotistical police officers that are the problem, not the training. For years, people who want to advocate for moderate police reform without appearing to be anti-cop have suggested better training would result in less preventable police-involved killings, particularly of Black suspects. But how much do any of those people look into what all current police training even entails before deciding they need more of a better version of it? Maybe it’s time we prioritize confronting the more obvious issue: A lot of cops shouldn’t be cops, and once they prove they shouldn’t be cops, they sure as hell shouldn’t be rehired as cops.
More from News 4:
Then in August 2017, he was fired for violating the use of force policy during a traffic stop. In an internal investigation, another officer involved in that stop said he thought “it was a bit much.”
“I see a police officer being way too aggressive to start with. He had no business picking her up and throwing her on the ground,” another officer said of Aldridge.
News4JAX looked into how Aldridge was able to get another law enforcement job after having issues with use of force at his previous department. Hackney said he would turn candidates away in Jacksonville if they had issues with use of force in the past but he says the need for law enforcement officers is so great that it’s possible smaller agencies might overlook that.
In other words: “Hey, we need more cops! Who cares if they might occasionally kill a Black guy who isn’t a trained officer but is somehow more obligated to remain calm in all situations with officers who are supposedly trained?”
“The thing that you don’t understand completely is the tasing in the beginning and why couldn’t there have been more attempts to deescalate,” asked famed civil attorney Ben Crump, who was retained by Cure’s family.
“From what you can see on the video, it doesn’t seem to me that this will be the type of call or the nature of the event that would require for an officer to tase the suspect,” Criminologist Alex del Carmen told News 4. “If the officer has in fact, a history, that he has been using force in the past, and he’s been disciplined in the past, to the extent of being fired, then the police department has a very serious problem in their hands right now.”
As for that police department, the Camden County District Attorney’s Office said it won’t decide what action, if any, will be taken against Aldridge until the entire investigation is complete.
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