Trying to bridge the gap between police and civilians
Shelton Interim Police Chief Shawn Sequeira extended his condolences to all affected by the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Fernando Castille and the five Dallas Police officers, before saying that these tragedies are a reason for community members and law enforcement to join together.
Sequeira said anytime deadly force is used while trying to make an arrest, he hopes the officer took the time they had to consider all possible ways to subdue the suspect or person in question. He added that the time an officer has in a given situation varies and it’s a tough decision to make under any circumstance, but it’s a part of the job.
“Being in these stressful situations, you sometimes have only a split second to make the determination or call. I know that it’s a very tough call for anyone to make, especially for law enforcement to end someone’s life,” said Sequeira. “I trust and hope that it was a proper and thorough decision, but I can understand it’s not an easy decision to do, but unfortunately sometimes that’s what has to be done.”
The Shelton Police have taken time to reflect upon the recent tragedies and Sequeira said they are mourning the loss the five policemen killed in Dallas.
“My heart went out to them, me being a police officer, I couldn’t even imagine what they were going through at that time. I just pray for them and their families and that they get through it,” said Sequeira.
He added that the support from the community makes dealing with the public criticism much easier. The department have been receiving cards, coffee, and fruit baskets from the community thanking them for their service. Sequeira said he’s grateful to know the community knows although there are some bad apples, as there is any profession, they still support them for laying it all on the line.
“It’s a respected profession, you don’t always get a thank you and you don’t always get a pat on the back, you realize everyday you go out there there’s a chance you might not come home. There’s a great chance some kind of injury could occur,” said Sequeira.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Sequeira said officers don’t go into situations wanting to hurt people and understand why the community questions officer’s use of deadly force.
“Within our police department as well as I know, when you use deadly force there’s an internal affairs investigation that goes along with it. If the officer was trained and had background experience, along with his good common sense and judgement I believe he applied the appropriate use of force at that time that was necessary,” said Sequeira.
“My heart goes out to them [civilians’ families] because they lost the life of someone who’s close to them. The justice system is not black and white. It is a grey area, police officers have a tough job to do, they go out everyday and risk their lives, but that does not mean you are to abuse your position. That does not mean you take anyone’s liberty for granted, harm someone or take advantage of anybody. In response to that I think you have faith in your justice system, you have to have trust in the law that I hope that a thorough investigation was conducted with accurate results at the end,” said Sequeira.
The Chief admits the country’s justice system is flawed, but still urges residents to comply with police as instigating a situation will only make it worse. He said in the case where you feel as though your rights are being violated by an officer there’s an alternative to getting into a dispute at the scene.
“If you feel like they’re asking for something outrageous or your rights are being violated, I am sure there’s a process at the police department, whether it’s a day later to make a complaint,” said Sequeira.
Chief Sequeira said he’s spent most of his life working in law enforcement and is aware that not all officers are good. In order to combat the actions of those “bad apples” he tries to lead by example and holds all of his colleagues accountable for their decisions and actions.
“We took an oath to uphold the law and we’re no different than any other civilian or citizen out here. If you see someone doing the wrong thing you are obligated to report that person. You have to do the right thing,” said Sequeira.
Shelton Police all undergo bias training, but Sequeira said he feels as though the time in the field spent interacting with the community are what help to make a good officer. He added that he believes more community interaction will better the police officer’s relationship with the public worldwide.
“We continue to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the public and with the citizens. You have to have the dialogue, you have to have that open discussion, and you have to do it on all levels. Whether it’s in your school system, in drivers ed, whether it’s through speaking with the elderly whether it’s posting events and crime prevention. We have to bridge the gap,” said Sequeira.