This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It is not always possible, of course, but the ideal in any situation involving potential conflict is to ratchet down the tension well before fists are thrown, bullets are fired or political lines are drawn in a way that makes further rational conversation impossible.
The leadership and rank and file of the Salt Lake City Police Department are the trained professionals in such tension-reducing tactics. So, even if they understandably don't think it is altogether fair, the fact is that it will be incumbent upon those officers to show a lot of understanding and patience with members of the public and their elected representatives as questions are asked about the use of deadly force by those same police officers.
There are many ways to do that. Filling the City Council chambers with police officers and laughing derisively when members of the council ask perfectly legitimate questions are not among them.
Two fatal shootings of one man and one dog over the course of several weeks do not, perhaps, constitute a statistically significant trend. But, as Police Chief Chris Burbank correctly noted in his public conversation with council members Tuesday, Salt Lake City is not a particularly violent city with routine police shootings.
So when we do have a couple of tragedies in relatively rapid succession, and when everyone is aware of fatal incidents that have occurred in nearby jurisdictions, attention must be paid.
Members of the city council work for the public. So do the police. It is every council member's job to listen to the questions and concerns raised by their constitutents, answer them when they can, and seek information and reassurances from the police when it is appropriate.
And it is always appropriate.
To the experienced ear of a police officer, some of those questions may seem naive, ignorant, even hostile.
But it is the nature of every profession that its practioners learn, know, understand and feel things that outsiders do not. And it is the duty of every profession, especially those who are paid by the public and hold a certain amount of power over us, to be open and patient with the rest of us as we seek to understand, however imperfectly, what those professionals are doing and why it shouldn't be done differently.
Professionals also should always be open to the suggestion that, just maybe, they aren't doing everything exactly right and that improvements are both possible and necessary.
To say "Just trust us" is seldom the best way to earn our trust.