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Our Opinion: Cops doing well

May 11, 2001

On Thursday morning, the El Centro Police Department made the decision to fire upon a 14-year-old boy wielding a meat cleaver.

Officers hit the teen with a non-lethal weapon, a shotgun of sorts that throws beanbag-like projectiles aimed at stunning an intended target.

We applaud the Police Department's decision, a decision that likely saved that boy's life.

An El Centro police spokesman said all other means of trying to get the teen to give himself up were in vain and officers at the scene feared the boy would hurt himself or others. Such a statement not only reveals the cops' compassion but their common sense.

In an age where troubled kids acting out are a dime a dozen, this situation could have easily gotten out of hand. However, El Centro police handled the situation with clarity and smarts, which seems to be a trend sweeping through police departments throughout Imperial Valley. It's a trend we hope will last.


We only need to look to our nearest metropolitan city just beyond the mountains to the west to see how law enforcement can overreact. Over the last decade, San Diego-area law enforcement officers have gotten a reputation, fair or not, for shooting first and asking questions later, leaving in their wake deaths, shattered families and many, many questions.

The El Centro Police Department on Thursday showed that a deep concern for those it protects, even if they are swinging cleavers, is paramount.

That being said, we also would like to applaud the other Valley law enforcement agencies reaching out to the people through proactive and community-oriented policing. Newspaper stories run over the past two days in this newspaper alone have shown such innovative and inclusive strategies are working.

The Imperial County Sheriff's Office recently nabbed one of the "Imperial Valley's Most Wanted" after its 1-month-old program's advertisements in this newspaper and on local TV station KECY led to the arrest of a fugitive spousal abuse suspect. Tips from the community did what might have required countless services hours of officers and brought a mean guy off the streets.

Then there's the Tuesday afternoon incident in which a Brawley police officer tussling with a burglary suspect was aided in his efforts to subdue a knife-carrying offender by a Brawley citizen and a member of the department's civilian COMBAT team, which helps Brawley police keep an eye on the city.

Both incidents show the community's willingness to help keep its streets safe, at the same time showing that a law enforcement agency willing to involve and respect the community for which it works is better, more effective and more humane.

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