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.

Filed Under: de-escalation, police brutality, police violence, san francisco, sfpd, training, two bullets


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  1. 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.

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