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April 18, 2007

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Capt. Greg Meyer (ret.) Less Lethal Issues in Law Enforcement
with Capt. Greg Meyer (ret.)

They're still out there

by Greg Meyer, PoliceOne Columnist 
Sponsored by TASER

They're still out there, folks.  And they're not going away.  In fact, their numbers are increasing.

I'm talking about violent dopers who will take your baton and beat you with it, or take your gun and shoot you with it, or just stomp you to death if they can. 

Or they'll stand you off with a knife or sword.  And they'll wait for their moment to move on you.

Then you'll kill them, and spend much of the rest of your career entangled in bureaucratic, investigative, civil and criminal aftermath.

Or you'll avoid all that with your TASER or pepper spray or beanbag shotgun or net or whatever else you and your agency use to try to mitigate these incidents.

People who count emergency room visits say the numbers are going up for drugs.

A few weeks ago I went out for a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) shooting day, to try to keep my knowledge and skills up.  Lots of semi- and automatic weapons fire, some good building entry and search training.  All fine fun and adventure.  And then we got to the lab crew.  The lab crew is the group of dedicated souls who takes down PCP and meth labs.  Hazardous materials are their life.  Very impressive methods and equipment.  Remarkable professionalism and commitment in a high-risk job.

Here's a scary one for you: for some time now, the DEA lab folks have been coming across PCP in tablet form.  Very widespread, from Los Angeles to Nashville, and growing.  Different from my long-gone days of 20-30 years ago in Los Angeles when we'd see PCP "sherms" (Sherman-brand cigarets dipped in liquid PCP), and Angel Dust (dry PCP sprinkled on marijuana and other substances). 

This new stuff is in soluble form.  Drop it in your drink, and someone's got you trippin'.  Or they've got your son or your daughter trippin' if you've let your "parent guard" down and your kids go to the wrong places.  The stuff is showing up at "rave" parties and at clubs.  Often it's disguised as Ecstasy, which is a really sick, potentially deadly joke by your local money-grubbing dope-slinger.

If you haven't had PCP in your town, consider yourself lucky, and hope that you never do.  PCP often leads to hyper-violence, excited delirium, and sudden in-custody death.  Just like cocaine and meth, it usually takes about six officers to subdue and handcuff such a person.  Unless you deploy effective nonlethal weapons, everyone gets hurt.

I know that several authors on PoliceOne.com write about excited delirium and sudden in-custody death.  I hope you read them, and pay attention.  This problem has cost some officers their lives, and has caused other officers to receive crippling injuries, and has cost still other officers their careers and even jail time imposed by judges and juries who don't understand excited delirium and who wouldn't know a legitimate use of force if it hit them in the face.

The way to deal with someone who is flipped out on coke, meth, or PCP is to understand the symptoms (which are documented in numerous articles all over this website) and know that it is a medical emergency you are confronting.  Ask for paramedics to roll, get plenty of back-up and a supervisor, and then take them down.  The TASER seems to be the best tool we have at present for subduing these types of folks.  Get the person restrained, and then get your paramedics on them ASAP.  Make sure they get taken to an emergency room, not to jail immediately.

I'm working on a case defending some police officers in a northern California community who confronted a naked man they thought was on PCP, but turned out to be on meth.  No matter, the symptoms were the same.  He was hyper-agitated, highly resistive, sweating, yelling nonsense, unresponsive to police commands, and naked in the street . . . the whole nine yards.  Obvious excited delirium.

The officers wisely asked for lots of back-up, but only three officers managed to be at the scene, because it was a very rural community and multi-agency back-up was far away.  The three officers (instead of the usual six) managed to subdue this guy, and videotape the incident in the process.  Their tactics were superb, under very dangerous, threatening circumstances.

The first officer missed with one of his TASER darts.  The second officer managed to deliver an effective TASER dart knockdown and videotape the entire incident.  The first officer and the third officer became the arrest team.

The suspect was prone on the ground.  The arrest team had great difficulty moving the suspect's hands out from under his chest, because of the suspect's meth-induced super-human strength.

The reason only three officers were able to finally subdue this guy was because the TASER officers reactivated the darts over and over again.  It took all their effort, but they got him cuffed. 

Multiple consecutive TASER hits are something we learn in training should be avoided if possible, but this was "one of those" cases.  Remember that the guidelines from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) are that electronic weapons like the TASER should be activated the least number of times and no longer than necessary to get the suspect under control. 

It is worth repeating from other articles that the TASER drive-stun mode tends not to work on such people because drive-stun generally depends on pain compliance, and people in excited delirium tend to not feel pain.  In this case, the videotape reinforced that notion, and it's a "lesson learned" for those officers.

This is a case where the videotape will be extremely powerful evidence in the officers' favor in court.  So I strongly suggest you take a look at the new TASER Cam.  You can see a very dramatic, real-life TASER Cam incident involving a suspect with a large knife that otherwise would likely have been shot to death, at http://www.taser.com/realtaserstories/wyandotte_no_voiceover.wmv

Use your nonlethal weapons early and aggressively, before the suspect has a chance to scam on you.  Use them legitimately and skillfully. Yes, the training darts cost some money, but if the extra practice in training helps you avoid killing someone, the cost-benefit numbers are obvious.  Nobody likes to miss, and there are too many shootings that happen right after a miss with a nonlethal weapon.

You'll be safer, the suspect will be safer, your job will be safer, and your community will be safer.

About the author



Greg Meyer, a retired Captain from the Los Angeles Police Academy, served for 30 years, including eight years as a commanding officer. Greg is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center, a member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

He holds the Certified Litigation Specialist credential of the Americans for Effective Law Enforcement (AELE), and is a member of the AELE seminar faculty for lethal and nonlethal weapons issues.


Greg can be reached at: gregmeyer@earthlink.net






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