Drop Your Weapon!! (rules of engagement)

From the WP, re the recent shooting:

What I can’t understand is why you would yell at a guy who had just shot up the field to drop his weapon, as opposed to just shooting him outright. All this police officer seems to have accomplished with this is to get shot herself.

This is really part GQ and part IMHO (or GD).

My first question is whether in fact it’s SOP for police to yell at people to drop their weapons when they’re in the middle of a rampage of this sort, as opposed to just shooting them straight out. (It’s possible that this witness was mistaken, or that this police officer departed from SOP. Also, perhaps she didn’t have a good look/shot from where she was.)

Second question is whether they should. I say no. Just shoot the guy. He’s already shown what he’s up to. Don’t give him another chance.

Probably because other groups with money and lobbying power would flay the cop alive for not attempting an arrest and taking the suspect alive.

What if the police officer, in the confusion of rapid events, misinterpreted what was was actually happening or misidentified who the shooter was? What if the shooter was mentally ill but treatable rather than a hardcore criminal?

And ISTM that one of the biggest disconnects here is between the premise of “shoot first and ask questions later” and the NRA’s advocacy of “the good guy with a gun” as a major bulwark of defense against mass shootings. When gunshots are heard and people are dropping like flies, how is a police officer to tell who’s who?

I suspect it’s probably that the cops want to resolve the situation in the least violent way, and not wanting to be judge, jury, and executioner.

By giving the guy a chance to surrender, that likely goes a long way towards having a clear conscience if and when you shoot them. Of course as we will, it has its risks.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk

Sometimes what you say is a part of training, but your actions are also. They sometimes run together, in conflict with each other. Then a person is dead.

It happens fast. Even if the death happens later, but a result of the action.

I’ve read a lot of police use of force policies. I’m not aware of any that call for an officer to give that command before firing when the officer has witnessed the person shoot someone in a scenario that is clearly not self-defense.

That said, I think there are lots of valid reasons to give that command if there’s any uncertainty about whether that person is the shooter, or whether the shoot itself might have been justified. I haven’t followed this story closely, so I don’t know if the first of those could have been the case for this officer.

Personally I would prefer that mass shooters are arrested alive, psychologically examined, and sentenced to life without parole.

Fatally shooting them as soon as the LEO’s arrive is giving them the easy way out, IMO.

The cops tell the suspect to drop his weapon because they want him to drop his weapon. Any situation where he drops it is going to be better than any situation where he doesn’t. And if they always just shoot immediately, they’re never going to get that better situation.

Maybe she didn’t have a clear shot yet and was just saying it on the outside chance that it would work.

Well judging by past threads here in the SDMB said office did not give the suspect enough warning.


The OP is asking for answers from people who are not on the job.

Since Columbine there has been a separate set of training and protocol regarding active shooters (as opposed to just someone with a weapon).

No commands are required, just end the threat.

If the shooter is walking through a building go in and hunt them down. The days of someone upset going into a place, shooting a bit and then taking hostages to be negotiated for are over. The days of securing the perimeter and waiting for SWAT are over. The first patrol officers on the scene go in and get the shooter.
Active shooters intend to die anyway and no commands to stop them are going to work. In the case of multiple shooters yelling commands only gives away the officers position.

This training and techniques has been around almost 20 years now. I’m surprised that the left hasn’t had a conniption over it yet. But like it or not, that’s how it is.

That officer on the scene should had just fired. They may have given that command out of habit from other repetitive training.

Wonder how that final confrontation with Bonnie and Clyde would’ve turned out if Frank Hamer and his colleagues had yelled “Drop your weapons!”.* :dubious:

*which apparently they weren’t actually holding when they were shot - but it’s highly likely that any commands to surrender would’ve been ignored.

She may not have been close enough to take a shot, maybe wanted to distract him, maybe not clear who was shooting at whom. She didn’t have time to review her training manual, she did what she did, and that may have saved someone’s life.

Moderator Action

We’ve gotten several GQ responses, so let’s give GD a shot for the rest of this.

Any further factual contributions are of course still welcome in this thread.

Moving thread from General Questions to Great Debates.

You know she probably didn’t have much experience with shooting people. But she probably does have a lot of experence with yelling at people and telling them to do things.

In an emergancy, which do you think is going to be her first reaction?

In the army, they put a lot of effort into teaching people to shoot people, and even then it often doesn’t work first up.

To do what she’s been repetitively trained to do. Much firearms training involves an armed suspect who isn’t actively firing. So giving a command is appropriate. Commands are not required when engaging an active shooter. But apparently she fell back on her training that involved giving commands and it cost her. She should have just fired and ended the threat.

But it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.

Most likely a training issue, as stated above. Where I work, the policy says an officer “should” give verbal commands “when feasible”. Its not mandated. Most training involves giving verbal commands and when the shit hits the fan, people tend to fall back on their training without any conscious thought. I train officers to act, not talk, when immediate action will save lives, including their own. Stiill, its hard to overcome initial training.

How far away was she?
Her purpose was to try to get the shooting to stop ASAP. If he drops the weapon, then the shooting is instantly over. If she fires, then she has to hit him. He has a rifle and she a handgun which is a lot harder to hit something with and you have to hit him in a place that takes him down, or hit him multiple times.
If she was close enough to be sure she could hit him multiple times she should have but I think she was probably far enough away to try the command.

The officer’s reasoning was flawed. Yelling to drop a weapon is one thing if the gunman has not attacked anyone yet. Yelling at him to drop his weapon *after *his killing spree has begun, when his legal fate is already sealed (the penalty for killing 50 people is the same as that for killing 5) is another thing. The gunman has no reason to drop his weapon once the spree’s begun. It simply drew the gunman’s attention to her, and he shot her.