There Has to Be a Better Way

Living in Minnesota we have had three high profile shootings by police departments in Minneapolis, Roseville and Falcon Heights this year.   Philando Castille in Falcon Heights is the latest and with the video presents a very emotionally charged presentation that touches the soul.   With the Jamar Clark investigation it was determined that legally the police did nothing criminal so no charges were filed.   All of the information has been made public.  Not being guilty of a criminal act is not the same as stating there were no moral or ethical issues, and it raises a question of whether it was necessary to shoot unarmed Jamar Clark in the head and kill him 61 seconds after the police arrived on the scene.  Was that the only approach that should have been used or can we learn from this?  With the shooting in Roseville of a mentally disturbed individual, John Birkeland, I do not believe any charges are are pending.   It was a justified shooting.  With the latest incident in Falcon Heights we will have to see what transpires.  Even if in the end there are no criminal charges and the police are legally not charged, we have to ask ourselves if what is transpiring with the use of force is morally and ethically acceptable.   If not, what can we do to change the laws, change the training and change a culture to make deadly force a last resort rather than a first response.  

As a person of faith I am praying once again for the police officer, the victim and for all those affected by this most recent terrible situation.  Besides praying what can we do?  My suggestion is to de-escalate the situation, focus on the facts, learn by reflecting on the experiences and take appropriate actions going forward.

In the case of Jamar Clark I followed up with the Mayor of Minneapolis, the Police Chief of Minneapolis, the Hennepin County Attorney, the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis and Black Lives Matter, and gave each of them a proof copy of my recent book, Peaceful Resolutions, A 60-step illustrated guide to the art of conflict resolution.  

In the case of John Birkeland, I contacted the police chief, the mayor, all of the members of the city council, my state representative and my state senator.  I gave a proof copy of Peaceful Resolutions to the Police Chief.  I live in Roseville which is right next door to Falcon Heights.  The Police Chief in Roseville informed me that one of the five officers that entered the one bedroom apartment with a police dog had 4 hours of mental health training at some point in his career.  Can you imagine the noise of five police officers and a police dog to a man having a schizophrenic episode and hiding in a closet?  When the dog went in, John stabbed the dog with a knife which caused two police officers to shoot John.   It was a justified shooting.  My question is could this have been handled differently.  Can we learn from this incident?   Was this best approach?  I am not an expert in law enforcement and I can only imagine what a police officer sees and does every day.  I want to see an incident like this resolved in the most peaceful manner possible, and I want the police officer to return home after his or her shift unharmed every day.  The two police officers have to live with having shot John that day.   I feel for them and their families too as well as for John having lost his life and for his family.

Today we are learning of the shooting of Philado Castille, a black cafeteria supervisor at a local school in St. Paul.  Public statements indicate that Phildo had a permit to carry and that he was carrying his gun.   He apparently informed the officer of this.   Apparently he was going for his driver’s license in his wallet when the police officer thought Philado was going for his gun.  What a tragic miscommunication.

In all three instances, I am concerned for the victim, the victim’s family and for the police officers involved.  Today I gave two of my books to the Mayor of Falcon Heights and I asked that these be shared with the police chief of St. Anthony (they supply police services to Falcon Heights).   Besides Peaceful Resolutions, I also gave him my book The Servant Manager, 203 tips from the best places to work in America.  I asked that he focus on the chapter on The Art of De-escalation in the proof copy of Peaceful Resolutions and the chapter on How to Manage in a Crises Environment from the Servant Manager. 

Clearly having a gun and a permit to carry cost Philado Castille his life last night in Falcon Heights.  What can we do to de-escalate situations like this and not only address what is legal, but also address the moral and ethical consequences of these incidents?   I don’t have the answer, but I do believe with step 57 from Peaceful Resolutions that we need to:

“1. Define the problem; take on one issue at a time

2.   Listen to understand the emotion and facts associated with the issue

3.   Identify and clarify interests

4.   Generate solutions

5.   Determine the impacts of solutions

6.   Evaluate the impacts of the solutions

7.   Select a solution

8.   Implement the solution or go back to an earlier step

9.   Before implementing the solution consider testing it first

10. Consider BATNA and WATNA if no solution is found”

Finally, I want to share with you one of the tips regarding forgiveness from The Servant Manager and I ask that we look at ourselves, what we do, and what can we do to help prevent incidents like this in the future and help those impacted by these types of incidents. 

Tip 45 Forgiveness

“You may wonder why a tip on forgiveness is included here. The reason is that forgiveness is not about the other person. It is about you. If you don’t forgive, the only person being hurt is you. It is your choice. It is about you moving on from whatever it is that you dislike, hate, distrust, have enmity for, disgusts you or that you loath. It is about those that you resent, make you angry, and those that you scorn. It is easy to harbor hate. When someone has wronged us, we are taught to seek revenge. It’s an ego thing. In this case I believe EGO stands for Easing God Out. If we focus on our selfish needs, we become embittered. I truly believe to be an uncommon manager you have to be able to forgive others.

Having said this, do you realize how much energy you waste when you hate someone else and you elect not to forgive the other person? This is energy that could be channeled in positive and in future directions.

People wrong us. People do bad things. Developing genuine compassion for those that have done you wrong may seem insurmountable. However, if you forgive, you can move on. This will give you powerful positive energy that can enable you to become an uncommon manager.

I want to tell you a story.

At my church we recently had two speakers. Their names are Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel. Listen to their story on Storycorps.  Johnson’s son was murdered when he was 16. He was her only child. Oshea Israel was the murderer. At the time he was 16 too. Can you imagine how she felt? I cannot. She hated him, but has come to love him. Can you imagine? She has reconciled with Oshea and they present a very moving commentary. She now calls him her second son and he calls her his second mother. Can you imagine? She hated him. She wanted him punished to the full extent of the law. It took her years to come to terms with herself and her son’s murderer.

When she was ready and when Oshea was ready they agreed to meet in prison. This was part of a victim-offender program associated with restorative justice. Mary Johnson met six times with the restorative justice members just to set up the first two hour meeting. As a result of the first meeting she said she felt the power of forgiveness go through her entire body. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. It was a very powerful moment. After the first meeting, they agreed to meet a second time. Over time she developed a relationship with Oshea.

When Oshea left prison, he needed an apartment. There was a vacancy in Mary’s building. He moved in next door. Can you imagine? As Mary says, we all need to focus on the future. We all need to forgive. Without forgiveness our own hate will eat us up and make us bitter. After the murder, she was bitter, and she liked being bitter. She had hate and she hated many things. She was ready for a fight. Now she knows how much better it is for her to have forgiven Oshea, and for Oshea and Mary to find strength in one another. She is at peace. They are at peace together.

Mary Johnson founded an organization known as From Death to Life. It is an organization that supports mothers who have lost children to homicide, and encourages forgiveness between families of murderers and victims.

If Mary Johnson can forgive Oshea Israel, think about what issue you have with someone else. I am not a psychologist. I have not walked in your shoes. I do understand the power of forgiveness, and I have a personal perspective on forgiveness with my Christian faith. As an uncommon manager, you have to have a frame of reference for yourself and forgive others. Why? Forgiveness is as powerful, valuable tool that liberates the soul and removes fear.

Think of the excellent example of Nelson Mandela from South Africa. Imagine him forgiving the guards that mistreated him and kept him in solitary confinement and tortured him. He has. This helped move a nation.

As an uncommon manager, you are going to have times when you need to forgive someone. You need to come to terms with the situation and you need to reach out and forgive that person. The other person did what they did and they have to decide what they want to do. You cannot control the other person. You need to accept that the other person has faults. So do you. You need to accept that once trust is lost it is very hard to restore. You may never be able to trust that person fully again. You may always have to trust, but verify. However, even if trust is not restored, you can forgive.

As a suggestion, make a list of the people that you dislike. It may be a long or a short list. It does not matter. Try to remember why you are angry at that person. Take one person on the list and forgive that person. It is not necessary to make this into a big deal. It is up to you to forgive the other person. Once you truly do that, how do you feel? Let the anger go. This reduces your pain, improves your perspective of self and allows you to move on. As a result you will be a better person and a better manager.”

I am not suggesting the time to forgive is now. I am suggesting it is time to step back, and address the ten points presented above and to take action to stop the violence, look for alternatives and potentially come up with a better way forward.  Forgiveness is something that we receive freely, but often takes us longer to do so with others.  Let’s reflect on these experiences, ask if there is a better way and see if we can come up with a better way.

Pray for peace and pray for understanding in this difficult time.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]