Denver police officer Kevin Ford used reasonable force when he shot and killed a man walking through a residential neighborhood firing a gun, the District Attorney’s office recently ruled. This incident paints a clear picture of solid police work in action and the kind of controversy and skewed post-incident witness accounts that can cause officers to hesitate to deliver deadly force when justified and needed for fear of public outcry and legal ramifications (A phenomenon that was referred to in the Street Survival Seminar as “litigaphobia”)
As you read this article, use it as an opportunity to employ when/then thinking and as a chance to remind yourself that controversy and accusations or wrong-doing can be a seemingly inevitable result of police action in some situations. This should not lure you into hesitation and lack of confidence in your rights, responsibilities and abilities as a law enforcement officer.
Officer Ford knew what he had to do when faced with an armed, non-compliant and clearly threatening individual and he did it. Further, he showed tactically wise thinking when he moved in to cuff the suspect he had just shot. Time and again, gravely wounded suspects have shown the ability to present a serious and deadly threat to officers, even up to their last breath. As with this incident, it’s not uncommon for bystanders to claim that police used excessive force and added insult to injury by cuffing a downed suspect. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you know you need to do to protect yourself and others, regardless of what it “looks like” from the outside.
A few quick take-aways from this incident:
1. Be mentally, physically and professionally prepared to take immediate and definitive action, including delivering deadly force, when you must, as dictated by the behavior of the suspect you’re confronting.
2. Don’t let the fear of facing controversy and public outcry make you hesitate. Hesitation can be fatal.
3. Just because a suspect is shot does not mean he’s out of the game. Make sure you cuff.