Unfortunately, as awful as it is for someone to die, facing a knife-wielding murderer almost…
Marc Milgrom

So, Marc Milgrom, there’s no in between? No matter what the “threat” — a knife wielding lunatic, someone “wielding” a bat or hard object — as long as it’s a “clear, known threat” the police should fire at will, shoot to kill and ask questions later?

Many versed in the martial arts and the military are trained to instantly identify a lunatic carrying a destructive object, and effectively defend himself against him or her. They use the fact that the opponent is in a crazed and irrational state to their advantage. It’s obvious he’s not a professional killer. If he knew how to use that weapon he wouldn’t be running headlong at you with it.

Using their smart, calculated responses and actions they’re trained to stop the attacker or at least defend themselves. They have the advantage of thinking rationally, resulting in more alternatives than lethal force. Can’t Police do the same? Must the police response be to shoot?

One of the issues ignored by the aforementioned policy is self defense. Should a police officer not be required to use even a modicum of self-defense before using lethal force? Police declare a war that needs to be won before any defensive interaction even happens. Shouldn’t the threat be met with the minimum amount of force required to diffuse the situation, rather than the ultimate end all? Our own National Guard has rules of engagement calling for the the minimum amount of force necessary (read here) and six (6) stages of action before using deadly force. Can’t the police have similar rules of engagement?

Another oft forgotten element is time. Police seem to only think about the exact moment in time they’re reacting to. They believe that their response must happen now. In fact, a crazed, adrenaline fueled, knife wielding lunatic could probably be kept running in circles, wearing himself out and harming no one, by only a couple of rationally thinking policeman. But, to do that, the rules of engagement need to favor alternatives to deadly force as the primary response.

As long as the policy of using deadly force whenever there’s a “clear, known threat” is acceptable, alternatives will never be used — we’re in an endless cycle of death — too often wrongful deaths of children “wielding” BB guns, nervous people reaching into a pocket or glove box, or situations where “he looked like he had a gun”.

If we were to expand our current police force policy of deadly force whenever there’s a “clear, known threat” beyond our own borders, we’d be nuking Syria (and a few other places) now.

How is it that other countries have police forces that don’t even carry guns? They use every option they can to defuse the situation, they think of intelligent responses, and only in the extreme case call upon armed force. This also forces them to use as an advantage and as an element in deescalation.

I think in almost every case, death is an over reaction. Death as a result of any police action should always be questioned. As a society, to accept anything less is to be complicit.