Use of Force Continuum some thirty shots fired at SUV not involved in shooting crisis in California
Eric LaMont Gregory
In a nation where the rule of law reigns supreme, revenge overtook rationality and the good and the bad responded with the use of unrestrained lethal force, and in doing so added to the list of shattered lives, when surely the goal was to act with the utmost intent to preserve life.
This has been and continues to be a profound tragedy. The senseless loss of life is heart-rending, and all our best wishes must be directed to those whose lives were touch deeply. Few words can reach through the despair that has been inflicted on those who were otherwise going about their affairs as one does, working, looking forward, planning, and all the other momentarily important things that occupy our time and efforts. It is life and life only.
And now it is for us the living to bury our dead with dignity, reflect, and then face the onerous task of sorting out - why did this happen?
In a nation where the rule of law reigns supreme, revenge overtook rationality and the good and the bad responded with the use of seemingly unrestrained lethal force, and in doing so added to the list of shattered lives, when surely the goal was to act with the utmost intent to preserve life.
In a nation where the rule law reigns supreme, a tragedy that ought to have been settled in a courtroom, ended in a hell-fire in the wooded foothills of Big Bear Mountain, California.
It is for us the living to bury our dead with dignity, reflect, and face the onerous task of sorting out - Why?
Although not universal - a use of force continuum - provides guidelines for law enforcement officers concerning the force that may, in a given situation, be employed against a resisting subject. These guidelines are similar to the rules of engagement for military personnel, and it should be understood that even within the military there are wide variations in the application of the rules.
The use of force continuum is designed to establish standards for law enforcement as well as the public, as to how much force is reasonable in the conduct of an officer's sanctioned duties. The use of force continuum is more than a training tool for law enforcement, and should also be understood by the general public, as the continuum is often used in trials and before police review boards to decide whether the use of force in a particular case was applied reasonably.
In this article particular attention is drawn to the concept of the use of force in relation to a 'resisting subject'. Unless, the element of resistance arises in a particular situation the use of restraint is a pro-active measure to insure that the possibility of physical threat of any substantial nature is removed from the police / public interface.
As can be seen in the photo above some thirty rounds were fired at a Nissan SUV of similar make, but not model or color as one that an at-large, armed, and dangerous fugitive was believed to be driving. The fugitive had already shot and killed civilians as well as members of the police force.
The fugitive had left a written statement that he was targeting members of the police force in relation to his having been unfairly, in his words, removed from employment with the LAPD. The fugitive shot and killed the a young female relative of a former police official and her fiance. The official had been the fugitives representative before a police internal review board that decided to terminate the fugitive from police service.
There is a general understanding in law enforcement that anyone who would specifically target and kill a police officer is deemed to be an even greater threat to the civilian population.
As best as the evidence can be gleaned at this juncture, in the dawn's early light law enforcement officers mistook the blue Nissan SUV, for a grey one of similar make, but not the same color or model thought to be used by the fugitive. There is, however, no indication whatsoever that any resistance or untoward movements were made by the occupants of the blue Nissan. There are, of course, thousands upon thousands of Nissan SUV's on the roads of California, and hundreds with a reasonable distance of where the police shooting took place.
There is another fact which must be considered, and that is that the license plate number, clearly visible to the law enforcement officers was not the same as the one identified as belonging to the fugitive's vehicle In fact, the license plate number of the fugitive vehicle had been widely circulated. The fugitive's license plate number had even been posted on digital billboards along the highways near to where the police shooting took place.
A few minutes after 5 in the morning police fired at the blue Nissan. The vehicle was occupied by two females, a mother and her daughter, who were delivering newspapers as they had daily over a considerable time span.
It is an understatement to say that the Nissan was riddled with bullets. Forensically speaking however, the pattern of shots fired by those police officers is revelatory. Upon close examination of the photographic evidence approximately thirty bullets actually hit the vehicle and there is further evidence that shots fired landed elsewhere in the residential neighborhood in which the shootings took place. Those familiar with investigating the state of mind aspect of criminal investigations will be particularly interested in the pattern as well as the number of shots fired. For the layman, suffice it to say that the pattern of shots fired is unusual and of particular interest. Not all police officers as ace marksmen.
A rather obvious question relates to the familiarity of those officers with the range of normal activities customary to the neighborhood in which they were assigned to what was ostensibly a protection detail.
Much will be said and written about the fact that this shooting took place amid the highly charged atmosphere of an active shooter at-large who was not only targeting the police, but who had demonstrated a willingness to murder unarmed civilians as well.
And yet, it is exactly in these kinds of situations that we, the American public, expect the professionalism of our law enforcement personnel to come shining through, that is, we anticipate that when all is said and done that the police will to have been shown to be riding high in the saddle, as it were.
The fugitive who is still at-large, the mother and daughter delivering newspapers in the early dawn, and the young man wanting to surf before work, all have rights. The police have guidelines - a use of force continuum - that sets standards for the use of force when the police encounter resistance in a arrest or any other contact between the police and the general public.
In neither of the police shootings in the City of Torrance, or in the third incident in Southern California was there an iota of resistance offered by the mother and daughter nor the early morning surfer driving a black Honda pickup whose vehicle was shot at and rammed less than a half-hour after the first mistaken shooting of the two females, or the driver making his way through the ordinary chaos of traffic.
"As you know," an attorney representing the early morning surfer, the second casualty of mistaken identity, in a letter to the City of Torrance Chief of Police, "officers of the Torrance police department attempted to kill my client."
The rights of the mother and daughter, and the surfer and later the driver in LA were violated. The list of violations include intent to commit murder, as well as, violations of their rights under the 4th, 5th, 6th, and possibly the 14th Amendments.
One can readily dismiss as utter rubbish statements like that issued by Maria Haberfeld of John Jay College's Clinical Justice Department. She exclaimed that "Nobody trains police officers to look for one of their own."
When in fact and in law, yes our police officers are trained to solve crimes regardless of who the perpetrators are.
Equally irreconcilable with the evidence is a statement issued by the Torrance Police Department, "The circumstances of the incident known to the responding officer(s) under normal circumstances - and these were far from normal circumstances - to believe that fellow officers were being shot at and that the vehicle traveling toward them posed a serious risk."
Not only was there no risk, the only shots that had been fired were by the police themselves against civilians who offered no resistance to being approached by the police whatsoever. Did an excited police dispatcher lead the officers in the second police shooting to believe otherwise?
The guidelines for the use of force when resistance is offered exist to cover situations just like the ones with which the Torrance police mistakenly believed they had encountered that morning, and they got both incidences horrible wrong.
What the use of force continuum guidelines address specifically and what police training teaches in general is that any use of force must be employed with restraint, and with the utmost regard for the preservation of life.
American citizens have rights which are inviolate and barring the imposition of Martial Law, cannot and must not become the collateral causalities of police action no matter how extremely intense the circumstances are, or seem to be.
The police in an increasingly frantic attempt to capture a fugitive presumably, dead or alive, has resulted in a growing number of innocent victims being randomly shot at. In each case not a single victim drove the same make of vehicle as owned by the fugitive shooter. A vehicle which had in fact had already been discovered burned out near a ski resort some distance away a few days earlier.
We are again faced with the tragic loss of life because firearms are in the hands of the dangerously mentally ill.
And yet, what we have not seen in this drawn out drama, are the professionals who treat the mentally ill using the airways to talk directly to the fugitive in this case. Where are the highly skilled police negotiators and the consultants from the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI?
If there is any good to come from this tragic and sad affair, it will be that communities across this country sit down with their local and state law enforcement officials and review the existing - use of force continuum guidelines - in effect in their communities.
And, perhaps we will not wait until other mothers and daughters, and early morning surfers, and those just going about their daily routines are gunned down on our neighborhood streets by the very people we elect, employ and trust to protect us.
Write, call or email your local Chief of Police, County Sheriff and State Police, and request a copy of the - use of force continuum - in effect in your community. The lives of your loved ones may well depend upon your getting involved in this crucial issue.
Knowledge is the only true safeguard of liberty.
Mother and daughter delivering newspapers, vehicle riddled with bullets, mother shot twice in back, while her daughter was hit once
For a third time Southern California police opened fire at an innocent victim without warning, please contact your local law enforcement officials and get a copy of their - use of force continuum guidelines - and get in on the discussion before more innocents are harmed, or worse killed
Andy Stubblefield - Eric, I heard an excellent idea proposed right after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, when an experienced educator suggested that, instead of the lunacy of arming school staff with assault weapons, why not teach negotiation and mediation in our schools? If we could teach our children, at an early age, how to peacefully talk through our conflicts with others, maybe we can prevent these incidents from happening in many cases.
Brittany Myers - THE GOP here in MICHIGAN under the REIN of ENGLER demolished Mental HEALTH and it has NEVER been reinstated and now you expect a mentally ILL GOP to fund it again? Not happening their latest idea is to ARM teachers and put GUNS in our schools. The party of INSANE is well at work in Michigan
Scott Conklin - But this does bring up a couple HUGE issues that are being ignored. One being the mental issue...and SSRI's that essentially every high school shooter has been on...and the increasing excess use of force/militarization of police. Fortunately for us we don't have much of that latter problem here but for places like California, New York, etc, things seem to rapidly be turning into armed camps...
Monica Brown - What we have instead is Washington consulting with Holly Wood on matters of mental health ~ "Vice President Biden met with actor Bradley Cooper and director David Russell on Thursday to discuss mental health issues." Do those gentlemen have PhD's in mental health? Then their opinion means nothing.