A Dangerous Line

According to the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a recommendation was made by the Los Angeles Police Commission, which stated that when confronting an armed suspect officers should either back up or run away from a potential threat.

Now, the many of the specific facts of the case are not known to me. But what has been made available is that a female armed with an 8” – 9” knife waving it at officers and despite repeated commands to cease, and from a distance of approximately 70 feet, closed the distance to five feet in under 10 seconds on officers positioned between vehicles while stating “shoot me.”

Each shooting is unique unto itself and each has its own permutations and indices, that are specific to that shooting alone. If policy relies on the findings of a singular incident it sets a dangerous line for future incidents. Graham v. Connor 490, a U.S. Supreme Court Decision in 1989, recognized the fact that officers are sometimes forced to make split second decisions in rapid, tense and often uncertain conditions. The commission’s recent recommendation was that the officers should have redeployed or run away from the threat.

There are many problems with a myopic comprehension of the difficulties, decisions and impediments which many officers experience in certain tactical situations. In confined environments, retreat or redeployment may be all but impractical. Having been in similar situations myself, there are few options available when events transpire in 2 seconds or less. The latitude of leisurely scrolling through a list of tactical options is beyond impractical.

The overall message from the commission is alarmingly ignorant of the complexities inherent in police work. If one sets a precedent which stipulates that ‘the optimum tactical decision should foremost and always be employed’ it becomes an unworkable proposition. It will have a chilling effect to those attempting to protect us. One can always find options when 20/20 ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ from the luxury of a cushioned leather seat in an air conditioned amphitheater sipping Perrier.

Too many in the media opine that there must be a national standard set relative to the application of force. In other words, there must be a magic formula which negates officers from using what some may perceive as excessive force. Well there is… it’s called the objectively reasonable standard. Graham v. Connor set the standard and specifically employs this terminology.

Allowing those who have not one scintilla of real world experience to set standards and formulate policy is a dangerous line indeed! Good luck out there.

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