Objectively Reasonable Examination of a Shooting

Police application of deadly force has come under more intensive scrutiny than ever before. Objective reasoning should be applied when examining an Officer’s actions in the field especially with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. It is an objectively reasonable examination based on the facts of the case and those specific facts known to the Officer at the time the event transpires. (What is discovered ‘after the fact’ cannot and should not be applied in determining if an Officer’s actions were objectively reasonable in light of the circumstances at the time.) There is a reason that in some cases, what appears to be an unreasonable application of force at ‘first blush’ is found to reasonable when all the facts of the case are brought into play. What can be revealed in a 3 second news sound bite may not encompass all that is known to the Officer(s) at the time.

Events are captured on social media and subsequently spread at lightning speeds. Viewed through the unfiltered lens of a breathless media this can and has, led to unrest, riots and deadly retaliation against Officers who had nothing to do with the event. This is going to be an ongoing problem and in my opinion – only increase in its intensity.

More than once I have been interviewed by various news outlets only to have a segment relegated to the ‘round-file’ as my opinions were not what the producers had necessarily envisioned. I accept this in a free society as we are all entitled to our opinions and yet a moderate and unbiased take on an issue is not always appreciated.

Striking a balance between an appropriate level of force, accountability, media portrayal of actions taken, hysterical witnesses who observed nothing but freely render opinions on what transpired is inevitably going to be a much tougher proposition in the future.

Supreme Court opinions have employed the wording ‘chilling effect’ when examining (applying 20/20 hindsight) an Officer’s actions absent the presence of an ‘uplifted knife.’ Distilled to a finer point, it addresses the effect to which extreme examination and unreasonable criticism can have on those who serve us.

Some field situations are rapid forming, fluid and fraught with peril. Decisions must be formulated and acted upon within seconds or portions thereof. Many who critique deadly force actions have never hazarded themselves for anyone at any time nor would they. Others may disregard any and all rational logic simply for monetary gain.

These are simply thoughts which we should all consider when inevitably, these situations occur in the future.

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