A police officer who used his military deescalation skills rather than shoot a man found himself out of a job. The good news? He won a lawsuit for $175,000 with help from the ACLU. The bad news? The man he tried to protect was killed anyway.
Steven Mader was a rookie cop in 2016 when he responded to a domestic call and found himself face to face with R. J. Williams. Williams had a gun and wouldn’t drop it, saying “just shoot me.“ Officer Mader quickly saw Williams for what he was, not a threatening gun wielding black man but rather a human being in the throes of a mental breakdown. Officer Mader described the situation as an attempt to commit “suicide by cop.”
Officer Mader used his military training to deescalate the situation, making eye contact saying “I’m not going to shoot you, brother. I’m not going to shoot you.” Madder’s technique seemed to be working until two more officers arrived on the scene and within seconds one had unloaded four shots into Williams. His weapon, it turns out, was empty, vindicating Mader’s caring approach.
A few weeks after the tragedy, the Weirton Police Department troublingly decide to fire Stephen Mader. Under the fourth amendment our Constitution a police officer is only allowed to use deadly force if they believe the perpetrator is a violent or imminent threat. The ACLU and Law Offices of Timothy O’Brien argued this point and won the case on these grounds.
This case illustrates the problems in our entire policing system. Police need tools like de-escalation training, implicit bias training, and crisis intervention training, but the higher ups seem to be clueless about the use of force. How can we advocate for more of this training, when the ‘good guys’ get fired for doing the right thing?
By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca