I am not a fan of the Taser. Many departments are issuing Tasers and instilling in the officers a sense that this is the ultimate fight stopper. Except when it isn’t. The Taser might put a suspect down, then again it may merely irritate him. Then there is the ultimate disappointment when it doesn’t do anything at all. Anything less than complete success leaves some officers without a follow up plan.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) studied confrontations where officers were killed or injured. The study indicated that the most dangerous period was after the officers had overwhelmed the suspect but prior to handcuffing him. Old school officers would win the initial fight and then move in to wrestle a noncompliant suspect into handcuffs. It was at this point that officers were killed and injured.
The LAPD solution was to have officers stand off and give verbal commands followed by physical force, repeated until the suspect complied with orders. I am also not enthused about this school of thought. Can you say Rodney King? Lost on the media and the rioters of the time, is that LAPD officers involved in the Rodney King incident were following policy, as it then existed.
I suspect those were the conditions that the officer was working under. If you watch the video, she givens an order, then activates the Taser, gives another order and lights him up, order and lights him up. This guy was not compliant with her orders. Here is the video and an article Penn Police Shooting Acquittal .
I know that there is a small percentage of suspects out there, in a resisting arrest or fleeing situation, that are unreachable. I am convinced you could cut their heads off and drive a stake through their heart and it still would not affect their behavior. I have had it happen to me at least twice and have seen it a couple of other times. I don’t know where these suspects go during a high stress situation, but they are incapable of receiving or processing communication, in any form. Verbal instructions, fancy holds, doing a fandango on their heads with a night stick, nope, nada, nothing. If they can get on their stomach and grab their wrists, you better have six or eight officers to break them loose.
For lack of a better term their resistance is directed inward. In the end you know you have been in a fight, an all out struggle but the suspect never struck out at the officers arresting him. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of flailing , wailing and gnashing of teeth, on the part of the suspect, it just wasn’t effectively delivered.
I didn’t discover this phenomena in the middle of a fight, not even after the second instance. It took a lot of analysis and discussions with other officers to identify the circumstances. When an officer is in a fight and the suspect is non-compliant or partially compliant, it is only natural to look at that behavior as part of a strategy to hurt or injure the officer. As the resistance continues the belief, on the part of the officer, is that this is part of a deadly strategy increases. This may be true in some instances, in others it means that the suspect just isn’t processing the information. How to determine which is which, I don’t know.
I look at a verbal command as a suggestion, from the standpoint that the officer is not going to get perfect compliance. At some point you take what you can get. One crook brought it home to me when he complained that the guys on midnights (who arrested him) needed to get their shit together. They initiated a felony stop on him, the first officer said “Freeze”, the second officer said, “get out of the car” and the third officer said, “put up your hands.” As the crook put it, “I knew right then and there I was gonna piss two of those assholes off!”
Later as a matter of course when executing narcotic search warrants we ordered everybody to get down on the floor. An able body male or female who didn’t comply was identified as a threat and assisted to the floor. The lame, the young and the elderly were given more leeway, as long as there was some indication of an intent to comply, then they were monitored but not assisted in their journey to the floor.
Going back to the video of the shooting there were at least three occasions where the suspect tried to reach under his coat with a movement entirely consistent with going for a weapon. In the video, his hand drew back in response to the commands, there was no misunderstanding and no attempt to comply. The overall impression I got was that he was never compliant in any meaningful way. The level of his compliance did improve any even after he was shot.
This was a situation that called for multiple officers to finally effect the arrest. The officer felt sufficiently threatened to use deadly force before her back up arrived. I should point out that sex is not an issue here no officer male or female should have approached the suspect alone.
Was the officer justified in using deadly force? According to the jury, she was. Opinions from the peanut gallery really don’t count. The jury believed that the officer was justified in having a reasonable fear for her safety and that a reasonable man, faced with similar circumstances would have acted in a similar manner. The jury was not called upon to decide if the officer applied the perfect solution to achieve the most desirable result. I think that it was a close call, and the jury has spoken. I won’t second guess them.
The suggestion by Fraternal Order of Police that the District Attorney acted unreasonably in prosecuting the case is ridiculous on its face. The DA had to prosecute this case and put the question to the jury.