Saturday, July 13, 2013

Man With A Knife

A homeless, mentally ill man with a knife in a parking lot was threatening six police officers.  When the man moved toward the officers, they opened fire on him.  In five seconds the officers fired 46 rounds and he was struck over 40 times.  No officers were injured and the suspect was dead at the scene.  The district attorney determined the officers would not be charged in the incident.

What could these officers have done better?  There was no immediate threat to life when the officers arrived, the suspect was alone in a parking lot.  They may have been able to plan their response better.  On thing to do as the supervisor or as the handling officer is to designate who will shoot, if shooting becomes necessary.  The designated shooter or shooters can then deploy a patrol rifle or his handgun.  The other officers keep their guns in their holsters.  The designated shooter maintains a position of cover and a position of advantage as much as possible.  This may require several officers designated as the shooter and they may have to move around to keep their advantage.  These officers are then relieved of having to interact directly with the suspect and can concentrate on the officer safety aspect of the incident. 

Having only one or two designated shooters also limits the likelihood of firing an excessive number of rounds at the suspect.  With six officers, I would suggest two designated shooters, one on each flank.  They need to take care not to become in a crossfire and need to be aware of the locations of the other officers.  Assigning an officer as a designated shooter does not mean he is obligated to shoot, or does in prevent other officers from shooting.  It simply means that the designated shooter needs to be prepared to shoot as his role in the incident; that's what the SGT Says.

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