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Police Department Thinks 'Two Bullet Limit' Will Prevent Questionable Shootings

from the you-now-have-two-shots-to-de-escalate-the-situation dept

Two months ago, five San Francisco police officers surrounded a man armed with a knife and shot him 21 times. In response, the police department has introduced reforms meant to keep this sort of "interaction" to a minimum in the future. On the positive side, the reform efforts include training that will hopefully lead to fewer tense situations being resolved by officers emptying their weapons in the direction of their target.

Recruits must attend two-hour classes on de-escalation tactics, which teach how to deal with people in crisis, consider proportional force options, respect the sanctity of life and slow down incidents when possible.
This is undercut, however, by a new policy so completely asinine even I'm against it, despite my theoretical ownership of timcushinghatescops.com.
New pistol training guidelines require police recruits to hear the command "threat" before they fire at targets, to shoot only two rounds at a time, and to stop and reassess threats after every two shots.
In what is likely to be referred to as the "Barney Fife Rule," officers will only be allowed to shoot two bullets at a time, no matter what the situation is.

In some cases, this won't be enough bullets. In far too many cases, this will still be too many bullets. The push towards de-escalation is undermined by a permission slip that says two (2) bullets may be fired per officer (at minimum) even if the situation would be better served by the methods discussed in the mandatory training session officers slept through/mocked/interrupted with logical questions like "the hell is this two-bullet limit?"

In the case of Mario Woods -- who was shot 21 times by five officers -- he'd have only been killed by ten bullets. I suppose this is how the SFPD has chosen to interpret "less-lethal force." On the plus side, surrounding homes/citizens are far less likely to be the recipients of wayward bullets. And it will definitely make it very difficult for any officers pulling a "Brelo" to explain why they unloaded 49 bullets in 30 seconds at a suspect from point-blank range.

What the rule does, unfortunately, is make it more dangerous to be a police officer. In exchange, it does nearly nothing to lessen the danger of being a citizen. Lose-lose. The correct response would be to throw the entire weight of the PD's upper echelon behind de-escalation training.

A two-hour class officers are forced to attend won't make the message stick. What will make it stick are rules that make it explicitly clear that lethal force is a last resort -- something that should be used only very rarely. Any shooting should be accompanied by a raft of paperwork and a full investigation, overseen by an independent review team. The "shoot first and shoot often" mentality is only partly addressed by the two-bullet limit, which itself is illogical, unworkable and -- at worst -- a guaranteed way to avoid additional scrutiny for questionable shootings. After all, if only two bullets were used (and it only takes one to kill/maim someone), then it's a by-the-book shooting that warrants no further examination.

If nothing else, the fact that the policy can so readily be linked to an incompetent law enforcement officer depicted in a Golden Era TV show should have been enough to deter the SFPD from moving forward with the initiative. It should have limited itself to altering the mindset of its officers, rather than giving them a two-bullet "out" that undercuts the department's "will this do?" approach to de-escalation.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:14pm

    One Solution and the Only Solution

    True accountability for their actions with sufficient time for that to sink in.

    Mere replacement of every cop will not suffice, as the system will just enable the same result over time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 8:07pm

      Re: One Solution and the Only Solution

      Actually, replacing every cop will clean it up... and I do mean every cop one police station at a time. There is no system in existence that will ever prevent the same result. The founding fathers proved that with their comments and the prediction that we will be just exactly right where we are today.

      it is natural for government to flow towards tyranny, and it is only through eternal vigilance that we may combat that. Today there is no vigilance from the people, we instead sit around bickering about politics and running in fear from terrorism giving up our liberty.

      Most of us have even reasoned with ourselves to stop using Jury Nullification or even talking about the concept.
      Many of us have reasoned that we should give up our weapons so that we can be kept cattle by the police and state.

      There is a time where things have to be torn down and built back from the ground up and this is one of those times.

      If the DOJ wanted to get serious about it, they could easily solve the problem but we all know they are not going to do that, they are just going to run their mouths and puff up their chests here and there and then go home for a lil nap acting like they performed some public service.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 4:00am

      Re: One Solution and the Only Solution

      the only accountability is to shoot dirty cops dead imo

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:15pm

    When one in the chest and one in the head means you're most certainly dead, a two-bullet per citizen cap does nothing to help the poor dead sap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 8:32pm

      Re:

      Helps bystanders. A couple of years ago, NYPD was empting their pistols in the middle of crowds. There is an excellent youtube where you can see the officer become hysterical and wound ten innocent bystanders, while his better trained partner remains calm and takes out the perp.

      Two bullets or three max for a Mogadishu shot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:30pm

    Clap clap

    I know I'm biased as a Techdirt writer, but this is one of the best pieces I've read on this site or elsewhere. It's difficult to weave humor into a piece that ought to make one angry, but this is brilliant....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:38pm

    Two bullets, more than enough to kill anything that moves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:41pm

    "New pistol training guidelines require police recruits to hear the command "threat" before they fire at targets"

    I'm not exactly sure who will be saying the word "threat". Maybe I'm not understanding this correctly. Is it saying that a new officer has to hear the word 'threat' from a more senior officer before shooting? What if they are really in danger and there is no one to say the word 'threat' on time?

    Or is it a potential victim that must say the word 'threat'? Then there should be training to ensure that the police officer can assess if there really is a threat or if a civilian is just using the word arbitrarily or maybe mistakenly. You don't want the word 'threat' to be responded to with an instinctive fire. What about an officer that needs to defend themselves?

    "The push towards de-escalation is undermined by a permission slip that says two (2) bullets may be fired per officer (at minimum) even if the situation would be better served by the methods discussed in the mandatory training session officers slept through/mocked/interrupted with logical questions like "the hell is this two-bullet limit?""

    That's not how I read that. The rules don't seem to be giving officers special permissions to shoot that they didn't previously have. The rules seem to be encouraging officers to avoid shooting when possible but to limit their shots as much as possible when necessary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scote, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:42pm

    More likely to be called the "Double Tap" rule. And while it probably won't prevent killing brown people targeted by police, since a double tap is meant to insure a lethal volley of lead, it may at least protect bystanders more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:48pm

    Order could be important

    When someone walks down Market Street in San Francisco, should they yell "Hey everybody, duck" before they yell "Threat" near a collection of police officers, or after?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:48pm

    Well if you can only have two shots...

    So are SF Police recruits going to be issued double-barreled shotguns to help enforce this rule? Thus they will be forced to reload as they reassess.

    The article does mention that the two bullet rule and the two hour training are for recruits, implying that more experienced officers may still fire freely and without the constraints of de-escalation tactics clouding their judgement.

    "Another new policy demands that all sworn officers take an additional eight-hour class on how to handle suspects with blades and other non-firearm weapons."

    I'm assuming this is aka target practice, even if that's the opposite of the stated purpose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:49pm

    As others have said, real accountability and everytime there's a "settlement" or a lawsuit won against the police, the money should be taken from the police pensions. No, not just THAT guy's pension, but the whole precinct's pension. Because then the so called "good cops", who apparently exist, but always seem to DEFEND the murderous cops, would also have an incentive to train the assholes who are trigger-happy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:59pm

    least better than NYPD who shoot at a person who may may not be printing , While doing nothing wrong cept walking down the street

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 3:18pm

    Wow. Just wow. Did this come from the PR department to cut down on embarrassing "He was shot xx times" headlines?

    The lack of foresight is astounding. Is there such a thing as negligent asininity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 20 Feb 2016 @ 2:20pm

      Re:

      Wow. Just wow. Did this come from the PR department to cut down on embarrassing "He was shot xx times" headlines?

      I think that's exactly it. If someone is going to be killed by police, they don't want it to be reported that they were shot 49 times.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Who Me?, 19 Feb 2016 @ 3:21pm

    Me? Depressed? (you betcha)

    This insanity has been going on for decades all over the country. Recall the black fellow standing in front of the door to his apartment building in New York City with his cell phone and was shot over 40 times by an army of cops who thought his phone was a gun (40 times!); or the back woman who was sleeping in her car in San Bernardino 20 years ago while holding a gun in her lap because it was a tough neighborhood and she was a woman, who was shot over 20 times. Or the guy in California who was shot while sitting on his steps holding a sprinkler fitting for for his water hose (although he was shot only a few times). Krazy Kops give good cops a bad name, and the Krazies seem to be winning and profliferating (lemme outta here...). All, of course, were fatalities (nary a KK was disciplined for over-hasty-action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 12:51am

      Re: Me? Depressed? (you betcha)

      shot over 40 times by an army of cops who thought his phone was a gun (40 times!)

      Stop insulting armies, that was a disorganised mob, lacking any tactical control or co-ordination, they were lucky that there was a building there to stop the forming a ring and shooting at each other.
      The US police habit of having every cop in the area rush in to join the pack, is one of the things that increase the risks to everybody involved, especially when many of them are screaming orders at a suspect, and there are no rules to decide who is in charge.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 3:43pm

    Graphs Charts?

    I want to see the science used to conclude 2 bullets are the correct response.

    I suspect it went something like: Grab butt, pull out number.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 4:03pm

    "...to shoot only two rounds at a time, and to stop and reassess threats after every two shots."

    There has got to be more specifics than that, right? I means what is an assessment in this case? Can the brave hero cop say he was reassessing in a matter of nanoseconds with his razor sharp wit while rapidly turning some kid into a super shrapnel showcase?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 6:00pm

      Re:

      Every gun should have an attached camera that records what's going on. Every bullet fired should have required footage recording the incident. Pulling out your gun should automatically mean pushing a record button on it. The gun should not fire unless first recording.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 4:29pm

    If this is how vague the policy is, it'll be gamed immediately. Each of the present cops will yell "Threat!" and they'll all fire twice, in succession so that they can just keeping firing. "I fired twice every time I heard 'threat.'"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 4:55pm

    The Good Old Days

    I remember a time when (veteran) cops would brag about only needing to pull their guns once or twice in their career, much less shooting it. Now they brag about how many times they had to reload on a single shooting.

    It's not because things are more dangerous. All stats show the opposite. It's never been safer to be a cop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 5:40pm

    The San Fran PD must be over budget again, tell the officers to only use two rounds per perp and cut back on the donuts too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 5:59pm

    Scott Greenfield wrote about this this morning...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 6:20pm

    policy to shoot first reimplemented

    So this two bullet policy looks like it is designed to get cops hurt. All in the effort to get back to shooting as many bullets as they possibly can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 7:46pm

    Hmm... this is fairly widespread policy for most police officers that I have spoken with. They call it a 'failure drill.' Two shots, center of mass, reassess and two additional shots if necessary to stop the threat. Slightly more civilized than the older 'mozambique drill,' which is two to the chest, reassess, then one to the head if the threat is not stopped.

    That having been said, the combat stress reaction will likely result in most officers yanking the trigger until slide lock. That's usually what happens now, even though the failure drill is currently what is trained. Quite simply, police are not trained enough to ingrain the current doctrine deeply enough to execute while under the influence of the combat stress reaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    aidian, 19 Feb 2016 @ 7:47pm

    The issue is when they shoot...

    WHEN one has to shoot a gun, having the default being a pair of shots is actually smart. It's a smart addition to how anyone is taught to use a gun. Two aimed shots, reevaluate, then two more if needed. Beat that in to people so if and when they're in that situation they don't unload 16 for no reason.

    The bigger issue is that this shouldn't have anything to do with when a cop shoots a gun. This should be extremely rare.

    Cops -- at all levels -- are that they have to take risks. They can't expect to use overwhelming force to prevent any risk to officer safety They don't get to use, or even pull, a gun because there might be a risk ahead. This means more cops will get killed on the job. Not many. Maybe a dozen more a year (average yearly is about 50 right now). Too bad. That's what protect and serve means.

    Second, cops will have to lose the occasional fight. If the choice is having a cop take a punch and letting someone get away or keep escalating the level of force, right now every cop in this country will escalate. That's the wrong choice.

    Of course they should also stop abusing, framing, and murdering people, but one thing at a time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 19 Feb 2016 @ 7:50pm

    Two shots and then consider the threat situation before firing another two shots, so on and so forth. What a cretinous piece of crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 8:05pm

    Gimmie...

    Gimme two shots... Gimme two shots through the door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 19 Feb 2016 @ 8:59pm

    Lethal Force As A Last Resort??

    But ... but ... that’s now how it’s done in the Hollywood movies!! In film and TV, shooting the bad guy ALWAYS makes the story end happily! Do you mean to say that, in the real world, violence has consequences!?! Say it isn’t so!

    When the conscious brain turns off, the subconscious reflexes kick in. And conditioned by years of exposure to the products of your own country’s—nay, the world’s—number one propaganda industry, there is only one way you will respond.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 9:38pm

    Two-bullet limit to give the cop time to think? Haha, this is rich. This is what their thought process is going to be like.

    "OMG, he's threatening me!"

    *shoot* *shoot*

    "...Hm. Is he dead? He isn't?"

    *shoot* *shoot*

    "Welp, he should be dead by now. Time to move onto the next one."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:03pm

    Does this mean that they will be clawing back machine pistols and assault rifles from the SWAT teams?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 12:39am

    We are heart breakers and life takers, we shoot 'em full of lead. This punk is already dead, now I don't get the chance to ask him if he feels lucky.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 2:42am

    two bullets per human..sadly the NYPD and LAPD don't consider non-whites as human anymore, as evidenced by their murdering/raping/abusing/stealing from pretty much anyone that doesn't meet their standards of a 'good ol' white boy'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 4:00am

    Somehow I expect the police officers will ignore this rule and do whatever the hell they want to, like they usually do despite when they break laws in doing so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 20 Feb 2016 @ 8:33am

    Barney's greatest danger was that he'd shoot himself.
    Hmmm...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 20 Feb 2016 @ 11:20am

    Spiral to the bottom

    This is even sillier than the FBI's claim that they only catch a terrorist after their seventh plot (inferring from The Intercept ).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 20 Feb 2016 @ 1:23pm

    Boooo!

    No more "spray and pray"? Boooooo!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2016 @ 8:42pm

    It should be 2 bullets per magazine for the police

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 12:03pm

    Why not use the British method of policing? Firearms officers must be called to a scene by patrol officers who are not issued lethal weapons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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