Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. has expressed openness to the idea of equipping police officers with whistles and batons to avoid the indiscriminate use of firearms as they perform their duties.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Acorda said they welcome the recommendation of former PNP chief Sen. Ronald dela Rosa of arming police officers with non-lethal weapons, apart from their firearms, a proposal the latter made after two teenagers were yet again killed by policemen in separate law enforcement operations where lapses were obviously committed.
Jerhode Baltazar, 17, in Navotas City, and 15-year-old John Francis Ompad in Rodriguez, Rizal, were recently both killed in by police firearms. Baltazar was shot dead by policemen who mistook him for a shooting suspect, while Ompad died from a gunshot fired by a lawman intended for his brother.
Acorda said he will study the proposal with other members of the PNP command group, saying he believes in giving police officers other equipment to warn people and establish their presence instead of using firearms to fire dangerous, often unnecessary, and sometimes fatal warning shots.
On the possibility of having policemen use taser guns, Acorda said it should be studied carefully since such devices are “prone to abuse,” a concept which any PNP chief should be familiar with, given the track record and reputation of the country’s cops when it comes to misusing all sorts of weapons.
The use of lethal weapons should only be considered as the last resort of any law enforcer. Considering the advances in technology, and even the most basic policeman’s tool for attracting the attention of the perpetrators and the general public, which is the whistle, the indiscriminate use of firearms should be unnecessary. A country where warning shots are normalized needs a lot of self-reflection within the law enforcement community and a government that allows such an unsafe method of attracting attention to become acceptable.
Instead of unnecessarily arming every cop to the teeth, the long term goal of any government should be to have a police force that doesn’t need lethal force every time to enforce the law, which has been proven to be achievable with non-lethal weapons. After so many “laspes” that has resulted in preventable deaths, perhaps it is time for the PNP leadership to seriously consider making law enforcement less lethal but more effective at the same time.*