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St. Louis police shootings pit real world against policies

High number of shootings early in year highlight need for 'exceptions' from department policies

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS - It's been a violent start to the new year for St. Louis police officers, who have fired shots in five incidents over 19 days, killing one and wounding four. Several instances appear to violate the department's written policies, although Chief Dan Isom said exceptions can be made.

His officers hit suspects with gunfire in 15 incidents during all of 2011. Officers typically fire between 30 and 40 times a year.

"Four is a concern," Isom said in an interview Thursday, before the fifth incident occurred. "But that doesn't mean it's necessarily inappropriate ... We look at these shootings on a case-by-case basis."

In fact, the use-of-force policy begins with a disclaimer: "In exceptional circumstances, violations of the restrictions may be justified by necessity." It generally prohibits firing at or from moving vehicles, or being too quick to pull out a pistol.

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