(As for our system for investigating officer-involved shootings, I'll be writing a future column about that issue, but suffice to say, it's deeply flawed.)
Why does this issue matter? After all, aren't most of the targets hardened criminals?
Aside from the potential for deadly mistakes, these shootings tend to fray the relationship between police and the public, especially in certain neighborhoods where the shootings are most concentrated.
And, frayed relationships with the law-abiding public, especially in tough neighborhoods, make solving and preventing crime that much harder. One would hope this would concern Metro.
A scarier scenario is that the shootings are just a symptom of a larger disease -- a lawless cowboy policing culture, like the Los Angeles Police Department of decades past. Let's hope that's not the case.
I was troubled by an R-J story last year about police training, in which the training officer told the reporter, "I believe every single recruit here, when they put that badge on, they are warriors. We're fighting a war."
I get that there are bad people out there who wish harm on all of us, including police officers. But if law abiding citizens -- Metro's best intelligence resource -- feel besieged by a militarized police force, how willing will they be to help police prevent and solve crime?
As O'Donnell told me: "Some of that is clearly not the right rhetoric when you're talking about civilian democratic policing."
He said there's a proper balance, that officers must be able to go from zero to 60 when a threat arises, but also understand that policing and war-fighting are two very different skills.
"When policing becomes an 'us v. them' thing, the 'otherness' thing, that's the invitation to abuse. When everybody is an attacker, an assailant, a lethal threat -- that's not the right mind-set," he said.
Sousa said that kind of language doesn't match his experience with Metro, which he said has been progressive in its willingness to work with researchers and community groups. He said he's worked with a lot of officers he called "community-oriented, problem-solving officers."
For instance, the Safe Village Initiative in West Las Vegas combined police resources with intense community outreach to churches, schools, UNLV and health care providers. The effort reduced violent crime by 40 percent.
Given that kind of success, we have every reason to believe similar efforts in police-community relations -- including on use of force issues -- can be just as successful.
Police in our society are granted a legalized monopoly on violence and kidnapping. As such, there is no greater civic obligation than keeping a watchful eye on the officers of the law who are granted that enormous responsibility.
I commend the R-J -- including for shelling out the $10,000 to Metro to get the records.