Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The "Don't-Kill Bill" - those crazy Easterners

This falls under the heading of "storm in a teacup" -- or I hope it does.

The New York Post reported that a bill has been proposed requiring cops to shoot to stop, not shoot to kill, and police officers and their backers have said stuff like. . . . Well, they can say it better than me:

"It's moronic and would create two sets of rules in the streets if there is a gunfight. This legislation would require officers to literally shoot the gun out of someone's hand or shoot to wound them in the leg or arm. I don't know of any criminal who doesn't shoot to kill. They are not bound by any restrictions."

Here's a sample of the language from the bill, Section of Assembly Bill A02952:

“A police officer or peace officer . . . uses such force with the intent to stop, rather than kill . . . and uses only the minimal amount of force necessary to effect such stop.”

I can't seriously think that this will be made law. According to the story, even Joe Biden scoffed at it, calling it the "John Wayne Bill" because it "demands sharp-shooting skills of the kind only seen in movies."

What's interesting is that the legislation was proposed at all. It shows a remarkably poor understanding of the real-life situations cops face sometimes, as well as a disturbing lack of concern for the lives of the officers. Not to mention the bystanders shot when the cop aims for a perp's gun-hand and misses.

If there's a problem with cops shooting to kill too much (which I did not see reported in the story) then surely the solution is threefold: 1. Clear, simple policies and procedures for officers to follow in gun-fight situations; 2. Intensive training consistent with those policies and procedures, and 3. Accountability should an officer intentionally not follow them.

And may I suggest a week long ride-along for the well-intentioned folks who proposed the original legislation?


  1. I can't imagine this bill being a good idea, either, but how often are police officers held accountable when they intentionally don't follow the rules?

    Former Dallas Officer Robert Powell testified under oath in a Denton County court that he smelled alcohol on a driver's breath. On the dashcam video, he tells another officer that he doesn't smell any alcohol, but he's going to make the driver do a field sobriety test anyway.

    Punishment for Robert Powell for committing perjury? None.

    Heck, the Texas Court of Appeals for the 2nd District had a dissenting opinion recently lamenting the fact that judges and juries so often rely on officer testimony that contradicts the dashcam video and audio and pointed out several instances where audio and video in a patrol car and intoxilyzer room wildly contradicted the sworn testimony of the officer involved (she said his speech was slurred, that he passed out and snored in the patrol car, that he lost his balance repeated in the intoxilyzer room. The video and audio of the event directly contradicts all of that). Punishment for that officer? None.

    The same opinion noted that officer in Fort Worth routinely broke the department rules by turning off their dashcams during traffic stops (or failing to activate them at all), even though state law requires the video or audio to be recorded (otherwise a racial profiling report is required to be filed). Punishment? None.

    Or go out to North Carolina where Sgt. Gottlieb testified in Mike Nifong's bar revocation hearing that he lied to the Grand Jury in the Duke lacrosse case, violated state law in regard to witness photo line-ups and manufactured "contemporaneous" notes after-the-fact to make previous witness statements better fit the later-known facts. Punishment for Gottlieb? a promotion.

  2. I'm aware that just bringing up the fact that horrible police incidents happen, and saying things can be and ought to be better, is immediately equated to "not understanding the reality they face" or "being soft on crime", or whatever is the fashionable dismissal to excuse refusing to think about those issues.

    But perhaps it's not a lack of understanding of the situations cops face, but the perception that cops can literally shoot and kill unarmed folks (reloading several times in the process too). And apparently that violates no law and they walk off. Rare situations, surely, but then i can't imagine that that's great comfort to the families. I'll gloss over the numerous incidents where people get "roughed up" (and make the news when they're consular officers in Houston).

    My guess is that it's that type of frustration that results in an overly vague (or broad) proposed law that would sanction police conduct.

  3. That bill has got to be the dumbest idea I've heard in a very long time.

  4. I like how you couch these lethal encounters with police as "gunfights". Here in Austin, the last several police killings were of unarmed citizens.

  5. I always thought that shoot-to-stop IS the rule. The idea being that the only justification for using lethal force is to stop an offender from killing (or seriously injuring) a victim (including us). The goal is to stop the attack and end the threat, not necessarily to kill, although death may be an unavoidable consequence.

    It would be nice to know what the bill really says. It is by no means clear that the "minimal amount of force necessary" doesn't permit firing repeatedly into the center of mass until the offender goes down, if that's what it takes to end the threat to life.


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