By David Anderson
Now that the investigation has found Lakewood Police justified in the shooting death of a man with a toy gun, would it not be reasonable to consider including in Lakewood’s Use of Force Policy the following two statements that are currently missing:
One that “communicates both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the police agency.”
The second, a declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances.”
Had this ‘value of human life over the use of lethal force’ philosophy, as articulated in such specific wording, been a part of the LPD’s training manual – it is legitimate to consider that a different outcome might have occurred on the night of June 18, 2013.
What possible argument could be made not to incorporate these life-valuing principles into the police department’s preamble to its Use of Force Policy?
According to recommendations of the American Civil Liberties Union following the agency’s 2012 investigation of Use of Force Policies from various police departments and law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Denver, Louisville, Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, and Washington DC, the policies of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) were found significantly wanting in two key specific matters that I believe relate to the incident above: (1) Did the LVMPD’s Use of Force Policy have a preamble or mission statement the purpose of which “is to communicate both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the policy agency”? and, (2) in keeping with life-over-force preambles, did the LVMPD’s Use of Force Policy emphasize the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options”?
I requested our own Lakewood Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and found that the emphasis upon the preservation of human life at all times was totally lacking, and steps by which officers could and should de-escalate the situation were not as clear as they might be.
Preservation of human life? What about the preservation of a policeman’s life? How many policemen and policewomen have died because they, in a split-second decision, erred on the side of too much caution? If person is whacko enough to point what looks like a gun at a policeman, then it is just time to thin the gene pool.
Jerome L. Hoban Sr says
Use of force by police officers is usually a split second decision. If the person refuses to lay down his weapon or what looks like a weapon after the officer orders them to drop their weapon and then points it at the officer, the officer does not know if the weapon is real or fake, he cannot take the chance that it is real and it only take a split second for the person to pull the trigger and kill the officer. When this situation happens the officer must make a decision to live or die. Unfortunately if the weapon was not real, the person who chose to point it at the officer made his choice to be wounded or die. If the officer had decided to retreat to a safer position and take no action this could possibly escalate the situation and innocent people could be hurt of killed by the person with the weapon.
David Anderson says
“The defenders of the police invariably take refuge in what Fyfe (James Fyfe, head of training for the NYPD) calls the ‘split-second syndrome’: An officer goes to the scene as quickly as possible. He sees the bad guy. There is no time for thought. He acts. The scenario requires that mistakes be accepted as unavoidable. (This) accepts as a given the fact that once any critical incident is in motion, there is nothing that can be done to stop or control it. But that assumption is wrong.” (“Blink,” by Malcolm Gladwell, p.237).
In the case of the incident referenced in my article, part of Fyfe’s argument mentioned here does not apply – and thus likewise neither does that of oldskirep and Jerome L. Hoban Sr. – that being what Fyfe calls “the split-second syndrome.” The suspect, according to police reports, was repeatedly demanded to drop his weapon. He did not, and further, according to reports, made a threatening action for which he was killed. Significantly more time elapsed than split-seconds.
My argument has nothing to do with the justification of the officer’s actions. Given the circumstances, both oldskirep and Jerome L. Hoban Sr are correct in at least one regard, that being the individual had opportunity to comply and did not. Thus there are consequences. In this case, fatal.
The point however, neither of which has oldskirep nor Hoban Sr. responded to, concerns life and the preservation of it – all of it: police, suspects, bystanders, community, involved familes, etc. for all of whom there should be every confidence that those quite capable of lethal force meet the standards for its use as here specified in the article by findings of the ACLU in its investigation of Police Department’s Use of Force Policies (UFP) across the country.
Lakewood’s UFP does not have any such emphasis that even approximates the following: (1) One that “communicates both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the police agency;” and (2) a declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances.”
My contention is that those two missing statements should be included in Lakewood’s UFP.
Dee Roth says
I would like to know how many police departments David Anderson has been associated , and how many times he has been put in a similar situation. It’s easy to sit in front of a computer and judge another’s actions–another to live it. How many people deliberately use police to commit suicide? You would probably be surprised at the number. The wording may be different, but I have yet to meet a dedicated police officer who doesn’t adhere to the preservation of life, including their own, but they do what is necessary for the situation.
David Anderson says
How many of the ACLU – if any – who did their investigation of police departments across the country, had been put in similar situations they were researching? We don’t know. But because we don’t know, does that make their conclusions irrelevant? I find it difficult to understand why you balk at their life-over-force recommendations – such emphasis missing from the Los Vegas Police Department, and missing from the Lakewood Police Department.