November 2016 Warning Bells article

Use of Force and the Police Commission

 They are supposed to be our leaders.   They are the head of the Department.  Everything they do is a reflection on Mayor Garcetti because he appoints them. So how can they come up with  decisions like this?

The bare facts are these. Two officers respond to a 415 woman with a knife call. On arrival at the location they see her and exit their police vehicle.  She also sees them at the same time.  In 11 seconds she covers 70 feet at a  fast walk (4.1 mph) with a knife in her hand pointed at the officer.  In those seconds, the officer yells six times “Drop the knife.” Screaming “Shoot me!” she continues coming directly at him, the knife in her hand still pointed at him.  He fires one round at a distance of four feet and she goes down.

This use of force is ruled out of policy  by the Police Commission (overruling the Chief who found it in policy). It was a 4-to-1 split decision. Commissioner Soboro retained his common sense and is excluded from the remarks to be made in this article.

Four Police Commissioners, at the recommendation of the Inspector General, decided that an officer cannot use deadly force to defend himself from a knife attack that is four feet away and approaching at 4.1 miles per hour. How can this be?

It’s called politics. Th e Commission bends to the political wind like a stalk of grain in a gale.  The gale is the national criticism of police shootings currently in the media despite the studies that show it is based on lies.  They have demonstrated that they will throw you under the bus to appease the anti-police protesters.  The reasons cited by the Inspector General and the four Commissioners that make this an out-of-policy shooting are based on three things.

First, the officers while en route to the did not specifically discuss edged weapons tactics.  Second, they should have stopped prior to getting to the call to take their bean bag shotgun out of the trunk.  Third, although the officer who was four feet away from the knife-wielding suspect had initially been in a favorable position with a car between him and the suspect, when she went around the car, he should have redeployed, or, in other words, run.

As further evidence of twisting logic to arrive at a predetermined result, the  officer’s partner also  fired his weapon.  Twice, simultaneously with the initial officer. Because only a total of 11 seconds had passed from the time the police vehicle stopped until the shooting, the partner officer, who was the driver, had only time to reach the area of the trunk of his unit before he saw the woman and the knife almost on top of his partner. He was 10 feet away. Fearing for his partner’s safety, he fired two shots. He was found to be in policy. As the junior partner, he was excused from failing to talk about edged weapons and getting the bean bag shotgun out of the trunk.

The facilitator of this political decision to sacrifice this officer to the anti-police crowd was the Hayes language pushed by the Inspector General and added to the use of force policy in 2014 by the Police Commission.  In short, it states that deficient tactics prior to a use of force can make that use of force out of policy.  The propaganda told to us at the time was that this would be rarely used and only in those cases where the tactics were so bad that they actually caused the use of force to occur.

It is difacult to see how failing to discuss edged weapons tactics caused the suspect to charge the officer with a knife.  It is also difficult to see how not getting a  bean bag shotgun out of the trunk prior to arrival caused the charge.  The failure to run also had nothing to do with the suspect’s decision. So, instead of the bad tactics causing the shooting, the emphasis now shifts to a supposition that if this, or that, had been done, the shooting would not have happened.

The Hayes language simply provides an avenue to rule any use of force out of policy when the political wind blows hard.  There is always something that could have been done differently. How about if the officers hadn’t responded to the call, the shooting would have never happened? For them, showing up was the ultimate tactical mistake.

Both of the officers were wearing video cameras, and an external security video also captured the officer-involved shooting.  This case illustrates the good, the bad and the ugly of body-worn video.  The good of body-worn video in this case was the fact that it showed exactly what happened.  There were three civilian eyewitnesses to the shooting.

Eyewitness No. 1 stated that when the suspect was shot, she was just standing there with her hands down to her side and she did not have a knife in her right hand. Eyewitness No. 2 stated that the suspect did approach the officers aggressively, but her hands were down to her side and he did not see anything in her hands. Eyewitness No. 3 stated that the suspect did not walk towards the officers and did not have anything in her hands when she was shot by the officer.  The body-worn video conclusively disproved their statements.

Additionally, four other witnesses who heard the shots and looked over at the scene stated that when the suspect was down, prior to handcuffng, the officer kicked the suspect, as if “kicking a soccer ball,” according to one of these other four witnesses. Again, the body-worn video conclusively proved that this did not happen. Can you imagine the  field day the press would have had if these statements were not shown to be false?

The bad of body-worn video in this case was that it didn’t make any difference.  The politics still trumped the facts.  The officer was declared to be out of policy anyway.  The ugly of body-worn video in this case was the visually disturbing full-color image of what happens to a human being when a .45 slug hits the body at close range.  The impact, the blood, the horror of that reality is overpowering and hard to watch. It may be that the power of the image alone drives logic and judgment out the window when trying to evaluate the propriety of the use of force–especially for civilians who aren’t used to such scenes.  That, however, is no excuse.  The video of the officer being murdered by knife would be equally horrific.

The bottom line is that the Police Commission exists, not only to protect the public, but also to protect the officers who are sent into the frontlines to enforce the law and provide public safety.  Officers have the right to go home every night. When in danger of being killed or seriously hurt, officers should not have to choose between their life and their job.

Be legally careful out there.

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