What Part Of Less Than Lethal Do People Not Understand?
I woke this morning to find an email from PoliceOne about the recent shooting in San Francisco of a man in a wheelchair who stabbed a LEO. Yes, he stabbed a LEO. The article explained how San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón intends to request TASER® devices for his officers, again. He requested TASER® devices to better protect his officers and provide more force options for them. It appears that policy for the San Francisco Police Department is set by the San Francisco Police Commission and the Commission must approve the use of TASER® devices. You can read the article here and see video to reach your own conclusions. From my view, it appears that the use of an XREP while other officers remained ready to deploy firearms would likely have changed the outcome in this case. As always, I welcome your comments.
I am happy to report that the readers of bluelinelawyer.com represent a diverse group. While most are LEOs, some just find the blog while researching issues on the web. Others, mainly my friends, are just hoping that I will post the video of my TASER® exposure for their enjoyment! I see this as a tremendous advantage. Whether you are a veteran LEO, concerned citizen or casual observer, there is a simple truth about TASER® devices. While they are not a solution to every situation, they present, like many other devices, an option for LEOs who are attempting to apprehend a perpetrator. By an option, I mean something between “Please put these handcuffs on and get in the police car” and the use of deadly force. Every method including batons, pepper spray, bean bag rounds and fists and feet comprise an “arrow in the quiver” of a LEO for the overwhelmingly likely event that a perpetrator will not comply with a verbal request to submit to handcuffing and arrest.
Now, a strike with a closed fist, a baton strike, a bean bag round and pepper spray are all intended to obtain compliance and control over the suspect. However, each of these methods can also cause serious bodily injury and, in rare instances, fatal injuries. So, the issue is NOT whether a TASER® exposure could result in a serious injury or death. The issue is the likelihood that a TASER® exposure will result in serious injury or death as opposed to the use of a firearm. Now I have been exposed to the TASER® device, and it was quite unpleasant. However, I am still here along with thousands of LEOs who were exposed to the TASER® and thousands more perpetrators who were on the receiving end of a TASER®. In sharp contrast, people who are shot with a firearm expire, more often than not.
As I stated before, intermediate weapons, including TASER® devices, have a place in law enforcement. You can read my blog post regarding this issue from last summer. I am passionate about this topic because the decision to provide TASER® devices to LEOs is more than a money or public relations issue. The LEOs and the suspects are real people. The encounters that lead to any use of force are over quickly, most often occur without warning and are difficult to “reconstruct.” The LEOs who are called to a scene and required to use force to effect an arrest or protect themselves or others can only act on their perceptions and the reality before them as it unfolds. A video taken from across the street hardly provides sufficient evidence to condemn.
The absurdity of allowing citizens to set police policy should be obvious to everyone, but apparently that is not the case. I am always baffled that people who call LEOs to respond to dangerous situations because LEOs possess the skill, training and courage to protect their communities will spend countless hours second guessing those LEOs even when they do not have a sufficient base of knowledge to properly evaluate the actions of those LEOs.
Several months from now, a group of citizens will likely gather in a grand jury room to judge the actions of these San Francisco LEOs. The LEOs will wake up that day wondering if they will lose their careers and their freedom. I have been honored to represent LEOs in this situation. It takes a toll on the LEOs, their spouses, their families and their departments. The grand jury will review the video, citizen reports, sworn statements and live testimony. The grand jury will decide whether the LEOs should face criminal charges for their actions. However, the grand jury will meet in a secure environment, with time on their side under the protection of LEOs who provide security at the courthouse.
I hope that politicians and others in charge of LEO budgets and policy learn that the politically correct decisions that limit the force options of LEOs have real consequences. Use of force is a complicated issue. Perhaps the decisions regarding use of force should be left in the hands of the LEOs and not the folks who call for help.