We’re having serious issues of trust between the general public and police thanks to a combination of real problems and intentional lies spread in the wake of a number of recent deaths involving law enforcement officers.
These problems have been compounded by journalists who are either too lazy to do the legwork to do their jobs correctly, or who are intentionally attempting to stir the proverbial pot and keep the public inflamed.
Ryllie Danylko, a crime beat writer for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, appears to be one of those attempting to inflame the public against police officers, with an article entitled Shooting to kill: Why police are trained to fire fatal shots.
She claims in the lede of her article:
After the shooting death of a 12-year-old Cleveland boy at the hands of a police officer came the familiar question: Why did they have to kill him? Why didn’t they shoot the gun out of his hand or shoot him in the leg?
Police responded with the familiar refrain: We don’t shoot to maim. If there is a threat that requires lethal force, we shoot to kill.
This is—to put it mildly—a massive, steaming pile of bovine excrement.
I’ve trained with numerous police firearms training officers from numerous states (California, Missouri, North Carolina). I’m good friends with a man who “trains the trainers,” developing the handgun training for federal law enforcement that is then emulated on the state and local levels.
Law enforcement officers are trained to shoot to stop the threat.
They are not trained to shoot to kill, and there is a clear and massive difference between the two schools of thought.
Law enforcement officers are trained—like concealed carriers—that they may use lethal force to stop a lethal force threat. Once that threat is not longer a threat, they may no longer use lethal force. Our streets are not battlefields, where you can eliminate all opposition with extreme prejudice.
For example, if a suspect pulls a weapon and the officer pulls his sidearm in return and the suspect then drops his weapon and surrenders, then the officer is no longer facing a lethal force threat, and may not legally fire.
Likewise, if the officer in that same situation fires shots and strikes the suspect causing him to quit the fight voluntarily (a psychological stop) or involuntarily (a physical stop), the officer must stop firing when the offender ceases to be a continuing threat.
In contrast, “shooting to kill” means that once an officer deploys his weapon that he shoots again and again and again until the suspect ceases to live, even if they’ve stopped fighting, even if they are attempting to flee,even if they are attempting to surrender.
When people claim that officers are trained to “shoot to kill,” they’re essentially claiming that officers are soulless killing machines that will keep locked on a target and will keep firing, reloading, and firing again until they have terminated their target.
This is decidedly not how police officers are trained.
“Shooting to kill” is not something that the law allows. Officers can and have been found guilty and sentenced to prison for criminal homicides that resulted from going too far.
It is not something that local, state, or federal authorities will tolerate, especially in this time of heightened sensitivity.
Responsible journalists draw a bright and shining distinction between these two very different schools of thought, one developed to enforce laws in a civil society, and the other developed for the battlefield.
Those who refuse to point out those clear differences aren’t journalists. They’re simply muckrakers, attempting to tear a society apart.