A list of don'ts for police after Calif. court's stun gun ruling
Recently, a California court ruled that "police need reasons to believe a suspect is dangerous before firing a TASER and can't use their stun gun simply because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically." Remember that regardless of what these judges or anyone else says, non-compliance and erratic behavior CAN be a threat to you. Comments like, “…SIMPLY because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically” and “It’s a significant use of force, not like cuffing someone or using pain compliance or pepper spray” reflect a dangerous level of ignorance of the realties of police work and necessary use of force.
Let’s start with the “orders” issue. Judges, attorneys and the general public have got to understand that commands are given to subjects for reasons of situational control, officer safety and to ensure the protection of the surrounding public as well as the subject himself. When an individual refuses to comply with those commands, he—not the law enforcement officer—has control of the situation, which can be an extremely dangerous scenario.
Further, the subject’s blatant disregard for the professional right and responsibility of that law enforcement officer to take control of the situation clearly illustrates a resistive mind-set that can quickly magnify into physical resistance and assault.
Next, the comment about “erratic behavior” not being dangerous to a police officer. What? The main point of the situation involving the 21-year-old at the root of this appeals hearing appears to have been completely missed. Let’s look at the elements of the encounter:
1. A man dressed only in underwear and sneakers is showing an extreme level of agitation not consistent with that associated with a simple traffic stop.
2. The man is swearing at himself, beating himself and “shouting gibberish.”
3. He blatantly refuses the command of an officer who, wisely, commands him to stay in his vehicle.
4. The erratic, unpredictable subject is no more than 25 feet away from the officer when he begins to advance towards that officer.
The attorney for the 21-year-old subject as well as the court thought that these elements didn’t paint a threatening picture. If you’re shaking your head, you’re not alone. Any trained officer would spot the collection of red danger flags in this scenario.
Here are a few don’ts to keep in mind after reading this news story:
1. Don’t let this court decision cause you to disregard erratic behavior as being harmless.
2. Don’t forget that a subject can close the distance between the officer and the 21-year-old discussed in this story very quickly, particularly if he’s agitated.
3. Don’t forget that a subject’s failure to comply with your orders is serious. Don’t assume they just don’t hear you or that they’re just stubborn but not dangerous. Your commands have purpose—most importantly your safety and the safety of others. Prompt, and complete compliance is crucial.
4. Don’t forget your training and what you know to be true…regardless of what others might say in courtrooms and on the news.
Stay smart, stay focused and stay safe.