PDA

View Full Version : Firearm discharge by a cop: "paperwork?"


Amateur Barbarian
11-21-2014, 09:34 AM
It's a worn-out trope in cop shows, at least the realistic procedurals, that the worst part of actually discharging a firearm is some inhumanly large amount of paperwork. I believe that; I am just curious what this paperwork consists of.

I'd like to hear from cops of various levels. Assuming there are no collateral issues - that it was a "good shoot" - what paperwork do you have to file for the following events?


Accidental discharge of sidearm, no injuries or damage.
Accidental or unintended discharge with nonlethal consequences.
Deliberate discharge with no consequences (warning shot, missed shots).
Deliberate discharge with non-lethal injury to suspect.
Deliberate discharge with suspect fatality.
Deliberate discharge with bystander injury.
I probably don't want to know about bystander fatality.

Kent Clark
11-21-2014, 10:13 AM
Deliberate discharge with suspect fatality.


IANA law enforcement official, but I would note that the officer involved in the fatal shooting in Ferguson, Mo. has been the subject of three separate grand jury investigations. Even if he is not indicted by any of the three, he will still face a police internal investigation before he's allowed to return to duty.

Orwell
11-21-2014, 10:32 AM
I would add to the OP's list:

Dispatching a wounded animal for humanitarian reasons (injured deer, for example).
Dispatching a perceived dangerous animal on an emergency basis (vicious dog, for example).

Darth Panda
11-21-2014, 11:01 AM
Discharging weapon to turn on TV

ZenBeam
11-21-2014, 11:05 AM
Discharging weapon to turn on TV
On? Do you mean "off"?

Morgenstern
11-21-2014, 11:09 AM
Warning shot? I've never heard of that. (and I've got cops in my family) If it comes to an officer feeling the need to shoot, I'm pretty sure they aim center mass and squeeze away.

Any one know of a department where warning shots are used?

DrCube
11-21-2014, 11:17 AM
Can't comment on cops, but in the Army, we didn't use warning shots either. For gate guard in Iraq, we would keep the chamber empty and if somebody got too close despite our verbal warnings, we'd loudly and visibly chamber a round, and that usually got the point across.

One thing that I don't understand about cops though, is pointing guns at suspects. Soldiers were taught never to point our weapons at anything we didn't want dead. Pointing a weapon at someone and just standing there and not pulling the trigger? Does not compute. Is there an excuse for this? It seems to be standard police procedure.

DrDeth
11-21-2014, 11:21 AM
Warning shot? I've never heard of that. (and I've got cops in my family) If it comes to an officer feeling the need to shoot, I'm pretty sure they aim center mass and squeeze away.

Any one know of a department where warning shots are used?

It used to be a thing. And, it wasn't written up. But that was decades ago.

My cop buddy tells a funny tale when he was a rookie, there was a Perp running away after a "grab" dept store robbery. He fired a warning shot and the guy fell down- scared him. But he was captured unharmed. Later, after checking the perps long rap sheet which included armed robbery, rape, ADW, etc, the guy's senior turned to him and said "About that Warning shot- why'd you miss?".

But even back then, any sort of firearm injury/death did require mucho paperwork.

I. Dunno
11-21-2014, 11:38 AM
IANA law enforcement official, but I would note that the officer involved in the fatal shooting in Ferguson, Mo. has been the subject of three separate grand jury investigations. Even if he is not indicted by any of the three, he will still face a police internal investigation before he's allowed to return to duty.

Where are you getting "three separate grand jury investigations"? There is ONE St. Louis County grand jury investigating this case. The feds are supposedly looking into possible civil rights violations but there is not a federal grand jury as far as I know.

I do agree that the officer's department will also evaluate the case regarding whether he will be disciplined and/or returned to duty.

DrCube
11-21-2014, 11:46 AM
Turns out Darren Wilson is probably going to resign. Off topic but relevant to a few comments here about him returning to the force.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/21/us/ferguson-grand-jury-ruling/

MikeF
11-21-2014, 11:52 AM
If you discharge your weapon, regardless of the outcome, you will need to explain why you did so. It could be a relatively short report (as in the case of a negligent discharge) or longer (extended gunfight). It all depends on the particular circumstances. There is no more paperwork for a justified shooting where you miss than there is for one where you kill the suspect. All that really matters is that pulling the trigger was reasonable under the circumstances as you reasonably believed them to be at the time.

kayaker
11-21-2014, 12:14 PM
I would add to the OP's list:

Dispatching a wounded animal for humanitarian reasons (injured deer, for example).
Dispatching a perceived dangerous animal on an emergency basis (vicious dog, for example).

A few years ago at work, a wounded deer was thrashing around in our parking lot. We called the Game Commission and they said they could have someone stop the next day. Then we called the PA State Police (we are in a rural area without a local police force). The officer who stopped explained that he was not permitted to shoot his weapon to kill injured wildlife.

doorhinge
11-21-2014, 12:19 PM
Turns out Darren Wilson is probably going to resign. Off topic but relevant to a few comments here about him returning to the force.

Beware of any unnamed sources provided by CNN. The information did not come from Wilson nor did it come from an official spokesperson for the police department.

I suspect that CNN told CNN that talking about Wilson's resignation would boost viewership and give their on-air personalities something new to talk about. (But I'm very disappointed in CNN's biased coverage of this story.)

Loach
11-21-2014, 01:52 PM
One thing that I don't understand about cops though, is pointing guns at suspects. Soldiers were taught never to point our weapons at anything we didn't want dead. Pointing a weapon at someone and just standing there and not pulling the trigger? Does not compute. Is there an excuse for this? It seems to be standard police procedure.

Use of force rules are generally set by the Attorney General of each state but each follow the general guidelines that have evolved through years of court cases. I don't know any state that authorizes warning shots. Here (http://www.policeone.com/legal/articles/1664029-Use-of-force-law-and-its-impact-on-muzzle-position/)is a decent article explaining muzzle position in the use of force. To much case law to quote. It's easier for you to read. Most of it is pretty common sense.

DrCube
11-21-2014, 02:10 PM
Use of force rules are generally set by the Attorney General of each state but each follow the general guidelines that have evolved through years of court cases. I don't know any state that authorizes warning shots. Here (http://www.policeone.com/legal/articles/1664029-Use-of-force-law-and-its-impact-on-muzzle-position/)is a decent article explaining muzzle position in the use of force. To much case law to quote. It's easier for you to read. Most of it is pretty common sense.

Thanks. That link makes a lot of sense. I often see it in cases where the threat of deadly force is not at all warranted, though. Case in point: Ferguson protesters. (And movies of course.) But I admit I'm certainly inexperienced here.

48Willys
11-21-2014, 02:29 PM
All of the LEOs that I know seriously dislike the "paperwork" involved in just drawing their weapon. I can only imagine how much more "paperwork" is involved when they actually discharge it. I was told that once a LEO fires their weapon, they may just as well keep shooting until the suspect goes down, or they run out of ammo, as the paperwork is the same.

As far as dispatching wildlife, while in high-school, my after school job was working in a wrecking yard. We got a call once to go pickup a car that had lost in a battle with an elk. When we got there, the elk was still alive and in some serious pain. The DoW said that they could not send someone out until "tomorrow morning". The local Sheriff's Deputy said that he was not allowed to discharge his firearm in this case. The State Patrol echoed his statement.

While they were semi-arguing about who was responsible to end the elk's suffering, I shot it with the 30-30 we kept in the wrecker for just such events. Those cops were very thankful that I "handled the situation". They all just hated the idea of filling out "all that paperwork", so much so that no one said anything when I loaded the carcase into the back of the wrecker. We had elk meat that winter.

Disclaimer, IANALEO, nor do I ever want to become one.

pkbites
11-21-2014, 03:43 PM
All of the LEOs that I know seriously dislike the "paperwork" involved in just drawing their weapon. I can only imagine how much more "paperwork" is involved when they actually discharge it. I was told that once a LEO fires their weapon, they may just as well keep shooting until the suspect goes down, or they run out of ammo, as the paperwork is the same.

This is mostly bunk, at least around here it would be. If I draw my weapon but do not fire it there is no extra paper work other than noting in the report that I had drawn the weapon (this goes for baton/taser/OC as well).

If there is no specific report there is no need to note it. For example, on nighttime traffic stops I routinely have my hand gun out and held down to my side. Flashlight under my arm and using my reaction hand to receive license/ID. Unless I end up pointing my weapon at a subject there is no requirement to note it on the report.
And yes, this a trained technique.

As far as discharge, no agency around here allows an officer to write his own report when he discharges a firearm. Another officer interviews him and does the report the same as if a non-police citizen had discharged a firearm. If lethal force results in a human death state law mandates an outside agency perform the investigation. This was already happening but that law just went into effect to pacify the protests from some recent police involved shootings.

Kent Clark
11-21-2014, 03:57 PM
Where are you getting "three separate grand jury investigations"? There is ONE St. Louis County grand jury investigating this case. The feds are supposedly looking into possible civil rights violations but there is not a federal grand jury as far as I know.

I do agree that the officer's department will also evaluate the case regarding whether he will be disciplined and/or returned to duty.

I meant to say two instead of three, and counted the federal investigation as a grand jury.

So I'll just say the officer is facing three separate investigations.

Loach
11-21-2014, 05:09 PM
There really isn't much more paperwork. If any kind of force is used there is an extra state use of force report. It's not that complex. In the days of paper reports it might be true. Now it's just a matter of writing a more complex narrative for cases requiring force.

As for animals, we euthanize them if need be. No report necessary. The dispatcher just has to note it in the computer entry for that call.

pkbites
11-21-2014, 05:40 PM
Another thing they don't show on TV/movies is, if you shoot a human, weather they die or not, you're going to lose your gun. It's evidence in a homicide/attempted homicide. Even though the use of force was justified. And you're probably not going to get it back.

This is no biggie if you carry a department issued weapon. Many agencies allow officers to carry their own weapon. The agency will get you a new one but you'll have to wait if it's not one they have.

Morgenstern
11-21-2014, 06:11 PM
Another thing they don't show on TV/movies is, if you shoot a human, weather they die or not, you're going to lose your gun. It's evidence in a homicide/attempted homicide. Even though the use of force was justified. And you're probably not going to get it back.

...

Didn't Zimmerman get his gun back?

friedo
11-21-2014, 06:12 PM
As for animals, we euthanize them if need be. No report necessary. The dispatcher just has to note it in the computer entry for that call.

Do you shoot them or euthanize them by some other means?

pkbites
11-21-2014, 06:24 PM
Didn't Zimmerman get his gun back?

He might have. YMMV and I said you "probably" won't get it back.

I know a couple guys that have been in shootings. One was in 5 shooting over 38 years didn't get any of his guns back even though only 2 ended in death. the other guy was in 2 shootings. Got one of his guns back but the other is still sitting in evidence 12 years later.

LSLGuy
11-22-2014, 09:53 AM
IANA LEO, but for a while I worked closely with some. One such guy mostly worked in the office. Before I knew him, he had a brain fart one day and shot his desk.

The official investigation was the usual thorough departmental one. The unofficial crap he took from his coworkers was much worse.

And no, I don't know the rest of the story well enough to share it. Something about forgetting to clear his weapon at the front door & doing it after he got to his office, but momentarily losing focus on the steps of the task at hand.

Gray Ghost
11-22-2014, 03:50 PM
Didn't Zimmerman get his gun back?

He would have, but the DoJ put an evidentiary hold (http://www.dailypress.com/news/os-george-zimmerman-gun-20130718-story.html) on it, probably for the deprivation of civil rights action they were contemplating filing (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/george-zimmerman-not-expected-to-face-civil-rights-charges-in-trayvon-martin-death/2014/10/01/4cd2ebd2-498e-11e4-a046-120a8a855cca_story.html) against him. AIUI, whether one gets their firearm back after a shooting depends greatly on the charging jurisdiction. Which is another reason why it's a good idea to have one's concealed weapon be easily replaceable. A Keltec PF-9 (http://www.keltecweapons.com/our-guns/pf-9/pistol/), at an MSRP of $333, certainly qualifies.

As to the ND at the desk that LSLGuy mentions, I wonder if he'd seen The Other Guys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=948-2Vzgi3w)? I mean, who here hasn't had a 'desk pop'? Given that the dis-assembly procedure for striker-fired handguns, like those that most police carry, requires that you pull the trigger to take the gun apart, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

Little Nemo
11-22-2014, 09:57 PM
In my department (New York State Department of Correctional Services) any time a firearm was shot was an automatic report to Albany. The only exception was for routine training. It didn't matter if you shot a prisoner, shot a deer, shot yourself in the foot, or shot a wall by accident - it was all reported and investigated.

And like falling sparrows, we paid attention to every bullet. We took inventories of all of our bullets six times a day and anytime ammunition was passed from one person to another it had to be counted and signed for. If the count was off and a bullet was missing, we would track it down to see if it had been fired somehow without anyone reporting it. Or to see if somebody had just lost a bullet without shooting it.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.