The national focus on police-involved shooting deaths has raised a key question: why is a gunshot to the chest sometimes an officer’s first line of defense, instead of last? And the answer is.. it’s complicated.
Mike Rayburn, an internationally recognized expert in the areas of Vehicle Stops, Officer Safety, and Firearms Tactics and Training, said on the Police One blog, “Shooting is not instinctive, but the natural reactions your body has to the stress of a life-or-death encounter are, for the most part, instinctive.”
“Officer-involved shootings happen extremely quickly,” says policing lawyer Walter Katz. “Usually, the point from where the officer believes he has to use deadly force to the point where he uses deadly force — where he pulls the trigger — is about two seconds.”
To guide their decision-making in use-of-force situations, nearly all officers are trained in the “force continuum” — a model that matches levels of suspect “resistance” with the level of force it’s appropriate for an officer to use. Police emphasize that the force continuum is supposed to guide officers, not to regulate them — but it’s still the primary way officers are taught what’s appropriate.
Richmond, CA police chief Chris Magnus, whose officers receive monthly firearms training, says it’s important for police chiefs and the public alike to recognize that training can’t replicate what officers encounter in the field: from the stress of a confrontation, to the weather and lighting.
If you haven’t watched it yet, check out the “Shoot or Don’t Shoot” segment, aired on FOX. In it, you’ll see what happens when a Civil Rights Activist Experiences Shoot or Don’t Shoot Scenarios: