The International Association of Chiefs of Police and 10 other law enforcement groups have put forward a proposal which includes new directives on the use of force. One disturbing aspect of this new directive is a renewed call to allow police to fire warning shots while pursuing suspects.
The new proposal is highly controversial, even among police officers.
Lou Hayes Jr., a police officer and representative of the Virtus Group, told NPR, “The idea of warning shots has been prohibited for decades in policing. And to now open the door up again is pretty eye-opening.”
Warning shots were used by police in the US until the 1960’s and 70’s when concerns about stray bullets and accidental misfires caused many departments to ban the practice.
According to the new guidelines, there are 3 conditions that dictate the conditions in which warning shots can be used.
The 3 conditions are the following:
- The use of deadly force is justified;
- The warning shot will not pose a substantial risk of injury or death to the officer or others
- The officer reasonably believes that the warning shot will reduce the possibility that deadly force will have to be used.
These guidelines are faulty and incomplete at best and seem to just give the officer discretion to fire in almost any situation that he or she deems necessary. Guideline #2 states that the warning shot will not pose a risk to any bystanders. However, how could an officer possibly know where the bullet is going to land when they fire a shot into the air?
Massad Ayoob, a police officer and firearms trainer, pointed out that “When you raise the gun and blindly fire, you don’t know where that bullet will land. A few decades ago I followed a case in New England where the guy raised his gun, fired what he thought was into the air, and the bullet struck and killed someone on the top floor porch of a nearby tenement building. Movies show people firing a shot in the air and the running man stops. And that just ain’t how it happens in real life.”
Indiscriminately firing shots into the air is dangerous and reckless, this is why it is illegal for people to fire their guns in the air during New Year’s, Fourth of July or other holiday celebrations because there have been countless incidences of stray bullets hitting innocent people. The fact that it is a police officer firing a gun in pursuit of a suspect, does not make firing shots into the air any more safe or reasonable.
You can listen to the interview below: