Dynamics of Fatal Police-Citizen Encounters
Enhancing Public Confidence
The purpose of the new protocol, in addition to proving for an impartial, professional, and dispassionate investigation, is to enhance public confidence in the investigative process. Everyone’s best interest is served if public opinion on these incidents is shaped by verified facts, and not influenced by myths, dramatic television, or movies.
Television and movies portray heroic gunplay and knife battles. From the Lone Ranger, to Marshall Dillon, to modern counterparts, the good guys seldom miss, no matter how overwhelming the odds or how impossible a shot might look. The hero always disarms the knife-wielding attacker without suffering a scratch.
Unfortunately, fictional portrayals like that don’t reflect real life. We all know that, of course, but Hollywood images are the only experience most of us have with violence involving firearms or other weapons. Hollywood has created expectations that are so interwoven into our culture that we’re hardly aware of them. Yet those expectations color our perception of real-world police encounters.
Understanding the Psychology of Fatal Encounters
The FAQs provide responses to some frequently asked questions about police-citizen deadly-force encounters. It is intended to provide accurate information about those encounters, so that residents will have a clearer understanding of the psychology of those incidents.
Those events have life-changing, and potentially community-changing, impact, so it’s important that everyone have accurate information. Understanding the dynamics of police-involved shootings will help community members understand future shootings and the decisions that law enforcement makes in response to them.
- Time is on the side of the police, right? They are trained for these types of encounters, aren’t they?
- Why didn’t the police just talk the distressed aggressor into submission?
- The subject only had a knife. Why didn’t the officer just disarm the subject, rather than shooting him?
- Why not just shoot the gun or knife out of the aggressor’s hand? Why not just shoot to wound the subject?
- Why didn’t the officer use non-lethal tools, such as bean bag or sponge rounds from a shotgun?
- The suspect was shot in the back. He must have been retreating, right?
- Why was the assailant shot so many times? Doesn’t that mean the officer overreacted?
- Why won’t video from a police camera or a bystander’s camera tell the whole story?