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February 02, 2005

When Cops Don't Shoot

Interesting article about law enforcement:

The remarkable success of the NYPD in reducing crime has been well celebrated, but one key part is little understood and less appreciated - how good cops became at doing their jobs without firing their guns.

Let's go to the stats: In 1991, when David Dinkins was mayor, police shot 109 people, 27 fatally. In 1994, under Rudy Giuliani, they shot 98 people, 32 fatally, including two bystanders.

That's when the NYPD got serious about finding a way not just to shoot accurately, but to shoot less. I saw firsthand how difficult that was when I took part in drills at the Rodmans Neck training facility. As journalists donned helmets, vests and paint-ball guns to play cops, commanders watched from above as we responded to a "burglary" in a cramped apartment hall.

The pretend perp pulled his gun, I fired mine, the perp fired his - and my partner, another journalist, shot me in the arm. Even paint balls hurt.

The effects of such training on the department were dramatic. Even as the size of the NYPD grew, the number of suspects shot by officers fell consistently. By 2001, restraint was thoroughly ingrained. In that year, cops shot just 29 people, 11 fatally.

Some of you may know that my oldest boy is a cop in Northern Virginia. His department regularly meets for this kind of training - partly because it's just plain fun, and partly because they are seriously committed to training officers to enforcing the law without the use of firearms whenever possible. And in Washington DC, in the wake of 9/11, to being able to use firearms if they need to.

But there are also big changes happening in urban law enforcement.

Officers are under constant scrutiny. Their cars have tape devices to record literally every move they make.

Imagine, for a moment, trying to do your job, knowing that every move you make, every word you speak, is being recorded. Personally, I wouldn't want to work in that type of environment. And they have recently been told that cruisers can no longer pursue fleeing suspects - it's "too dangerous".

Being married to a military officer, I've heard a lot of criticism of the military. I overhear a lot of criticism of police officers.

But we ask a lot of our police. And although they, like the military, are not perfect, they (like the military) are dealing with a segment of humanity that is often violent, depraved, and anti-social. And increasingly, we are hamstringing them, telling them, "don't touch suspects, don't shoot, don't speak harshly to them, don't pursue them if they flee".

And they get precious little credit for the outstanding job they do every day. For the fact that policing is hard work - especially so when you don't use force: when you cajole or use humor, charm, or just sweet reason to try to enforce the law in a world where some people don't respect anything except a 2x4 upside the head.

Posted by Cassandra at February 2, 2005 08:30 AM

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The other day I was interviewing a state trooper in Georgia for a legal mal case arising out of a tractor trailer accident. He told me that State Troopers, being immune from civil damages for chases, still have the authority to chase. Lots of county and city governments, however, which do not have that immunity, have policies in which they do not chase. On one occassion, he chased a vehicle which finally pulled over as it was about to get bumped in the rear and run off the road. The guy said when he was arrested that he stopped immediately once he saw it was a state trooper behind him, but he thought it was a county cop that wasn't allowed to pursue. To say that these policies don't have consequences is absurd.

Posted by: KJ at February 2, 2005 10:25 AM

My son says they have to sit and watch perps get away, while watching cops from neighboring cities and counties chase criminals right across their boundaries - it's maddening.

The infuriating thing about the policy is that they CAN chase if they have reason to suspect a felony, but they can't run the guys plates or stop him because leaves them vulnerable to charges of discrimination/profiling. So if they catch him in the act, they can't chase. And if they have reason to suspect, they can't stop him before he runs and creates a danger to the general public. Either way they are hamstrung.

Nice going.

Posted by: The Marmoset Nazi at February 2, 2005 10:30 AM

We should allow chases and give one year of prison per mile run to anyone who is convicted of running from the cop in a vehicle. If the chase is particularly hazerdous and cops or innocent civilians are involved in accidents along the way, I would allow one free punch per accident after the perp is caught and gives up.

Posted by: KJ at February 2, 2005 11:51 AM

What gripes me is (I have nada problems with chases, being from the left coast they are routine) how idiot drivers respond when they see flashing lights.

I think the law enforcement here is allowed to chase, and I cheerfully get out of the way and pull over when I hear the siren or see the lights (whichever comes first).

Ambulances and law enforcement. Someone's life could depend on how fast they get there and do their job. I have been honked at, flipped off, etc since I have been here for doing that, but
you know what? Cops and rescue are on the job 24/7 and the less stress they have means a better
force for all.

*dusting off soapbox*

Of course this does mean more vigilance on the part of drivers to note when someone is driving
in a dangerous manner, but heck, I will give the
law people a clear path to arrest the creep.

And THAT was taught us in driver ed.

Posted by: Cricket at February 2, 2005 12:25 PM

You better believe that I get out of the way when I see the flashing lights.

Posted by: man riding unicycle naked at February 2, 2005 01:56 PM

Cricket--I once saw somebody pull IN FRONT of an ambulance that was flashing its lights. Isn't that sick?
I even pull over when I'm WALKING, that's how much I respect emergency vehicles.
I think chases should be allowed, and if innocent people are hurt or their property damaged it ought to come out of the perpetrator's pocket even if they are guilty of no other crime. And Purple will tell you that comes from someone who is utterly dedicated to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

Posted by: MrsPurpleRaider at February 2, 2005 09:11 PM

Last year we had an exciting time and I was GLAD the cops chased this perp.

I am sure KJ may have heard about this one, as it happened last spring.

The story goes that two men stole a car and they were also armed. The police gave chase from Jonesboro (I think) down I-85 toward my burg.

Anyway, I was coming back from a physical therapy appointment and saw the perp's car in a yard in my neighborhood, and two men who were handcuffed in the police car. One police car was damaged, but
he was safe.

What had happened was the perps got to the neighborhood and crashed the car, got out, and started asking the nieghbors if they could use the phones (remember, these characters are armed).
They were denied, and one hid in the garage of the neighnor's house.

The law enforcement GOT THEM because they were allowed to chase, and believe me, people got out of the way. I think the cop crashed his car to prevent the creeps from leaving.

I was thankful that everyone was safe, and very humbled that NO ONE was hurt, because this chase was high speed, but I never got a figure on that.

Posted by: Cricket at February 5, 2005 10:51 PM

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