Using lethal force

Monday, October 16, 2006

Two Sioux City Police officers killed a man who charged them with a bloody knife last week, an event that, of course, be investigated to determine whether the shooting was necessary.

We do not attempt here to substitute our conjectures based on limited information, for the conclusions of a formal investigation. We only suggest that police officers be given the benefit of the doubt when they use lethal force to counter lethal force.

In training, it is instilled in military, law enforcement and correctional personnel that the most effective way to subdue someone attempting homicide is a shot to the center of the upper torso because that presents the biggest target for a disabling injury.

In the case of someone charging with a knife, a shot to the center of one of the knees would likely be effective without being lethal but a knee is a much more difficult target, especially when a person is running.

A Taser gun, which delivers an electric charge, is effective in temporarily disabling a person no matter where it strikes the person and a shotgun blast with plastic pellets or a stun gun can put a person down with little or no risk of fatal or even long-term injury.

However, alternatives to standard firearms have drawbacks. The alternatives tend to not be effective beyond a limited distance and tend not to penetrate some material that standard firearms will penetrate.

Recently, an attempt to use a stun gun through a half-open driver's door of a pickup truck was unsuccessful in Council Bluffs, and the driver was subsequently shot and injured with standard firearms.

Cherokee County has purchased Taser guns for use at the Law Enforcement Center but these will not replace standard firearms for regular use by deputies.

When we ask people to perform jobs which could result in them being attacked with lethal weapons, we cannot expect them hesitate and evaluate strategies when they need to defend themselves.