One of the last booths I visited at the Industry Day at the Range was the Piexon booth, exhibiting their new JPX4 OC Projector. The “JP” stands for Jet Projector, and refers to the manner the OC spray is dispersed using the less lethal device. Using self-contained 14mm aluminum canisters that are loaded into the four tubes on the JPX4, the OC will not disperse until the trigger of the JPX4 is pulled to activate the release mechanism. The canisters look like miniature oxygen tanks from a hospital, and remain inside the JPX4 until the officer manually removes them at the end of a shift or after use.
Center Mass, Inc. has an ingenious pouch for AR-15 magazines that attaches to your duty belt behind your pistol mag pouch. The Patrol Rifle Integrated Magazine Pouch ensures you always have an additional rifle mag with you, without the need for strapping anything else to your rifle.
Let’s face it, mag couplers can get heavy when holding a rifle on a subject for a long period of time. The pouches that strap to the rifle’s buttstock can come loose, and they can get in the way if you transition between shoulders to work around corners and cover.
The integrated mag pouch simply goes between your regular pistol magazine pouch and your belt, putting it where your hands have already trained to go for a reload.
Hopefully, we will be getting some of these pouches to test in the near future. I want to see if the system works as well as it looks like it should.
Police academies are woefully inadequate at teaching criminal law and criminal procedure. Typically, 40 hours or less are devoted to teaching criminal law (I’ve seen some states only require 16 hours). Generally, the teacher is a street cop, who may not spend a lot of time reading the statute books or slip opinions.
The focus of the classes is typically on defining what a “burglary” is, the difference between “assault” and “battery,” and elements of each crime. Very little time is put on the rights of citizens to use force to defend themselves and their property. Unfortunately, this means that police officers sometimes arrest the wrong people. [Read more…]
The department policy manual is a good guide to doing your job. The manual is an excellent reference for topics such as the proper way to dispose of found property, where to place your ribbons on your Class-A uniform, or how to file a grievance. However, when a lawsuit conscious administrator starts typing the policies, the manual can hinder more than it can help. Take the ‘use of force’ policy.
A lot, if not most, police departments lay out a use of force continuum that is linear in nature. Along the line are subject actions and appropriate police responses. Most policies allow a police officer to move up and down the scale depending on the circumstances, with the admonition that officers are to “…use the minimum amount of force necessary…” Sounds good, but its not. Here’s why.
No one can possibly know what the “minimum amount of force necessary” in a given case could be, and this opens you and the department up to endless second guessing by a jury when the “poor victim of police brutality” takes you to court.
In the landmark case, Graham v. Connor (490 US 386 (1989)), the United States Supreme Court took notice of this fact, and simply required police officers to use a “reasonable” amount of force based upon the totality of the circumstances known to the officer. Additionally, the Supreme Court stated that officers should not be judged with “20/20 vision of hindsight.”
So, how does this play out in the real world? Let’s say you roll up on a EDP (emotionally disturbed person) who is running into traffic and screaming at cars. If you don’t do something quick, he may get hit and killed by a passing motorist, or he may cause a serious motor vehicle accident. He ignores your verbal commands, and when you try to escort him from the roadway, he actively pulls away from you and assumes a fighting stance.
What is the “least” amount of force: oleoresin capsicum (pepper) spray, a TASER, a baton, or a strike with your personal weapons (hands, feet, etc.)? The plaintiff’s attorney will present your department policy to the jury, and then present an expert who will say that there were other lesser force options that were ignored by you.
If your policy reflects Graham v. Connor, and you are simply required to be reasonable in your use of force, you may choose any of the above force options to control the situation. All you have to show in court is that your choice was a reasonable choice. It is a lot harder for an attorney to show that you were unreasonable.
Here is another example. You respond to a local motel on a report of a shooting. When you arrive, you spot a person matching the description of the shooter walking away from the general area of the reported crime. You bail out of your squad, draw down, and order the person to put their hands up. The subject glances back at you, and instead of complying, he spins towards you while bringing his hand from the small of his back and starts to point something at you. Fearing for your life, you shoot the person. Unfortunately, you discover the subject is not the shooter, rather he is a deaf man who was trying to show you a plaque he carried indicating that he is deaf. Uh-oh.
If your department requires you to use the least amount of force necessary to control the situation, you have violated policy, as mere officer presence was enough to gain compliance from this person. On the other hand, the objective reasonableness standard accounts for the fact that you were using the best information you had at the time of the incident, and that when the subject, matching the description of a shooter from a nearby crime, made a motion consistant with drawing and pointing a firearm, placed you in reasonable fear of being shot.
I hope this makes sense. A lot of people would rather gouge out their eyes than read court opinions, but Graham v. Connor is one of those big ones every officer needs to read. Keep in mind that none of this is legal advice, nor am I suggesting you deviate from your department’s policy. Rather, if you have a policy more restrictive than the Supreme Court standard, you may want to pursue a policy change. Contact your department’s legal advisor and/or union lawyers/reps, and work to improve the policy you are held to.
In the August 2007 issue of Law Officer Magazine is an article that is both informative and scary.
For years it has been common knowledge that departments that issue both electronic control devices (such as the TASER) and oleoresin capsicum (O.C. or pepper) spray should be careful to buy a non-flammable formulation of O.C. spray. Early formulations of O.C. spray used an alcohol-based carrier, which was more effective that the water used today. However, the alcohol was also flammable.
There is at least one recorded incident in which a stun gun was used on a combative suspect who had already been sprayed with an alcohol formulation of O.C. with both spectacular and disastrous results.
Most manufacturers produce non-flammable pepper spray formulations for police departments. Some even label the O.C. as safe to use with TASER-type weapons. I suspect that most departments, like my own, have accepted the manufacturers’ testing of their own products.
CRT Consulting, a less-lethal weapons research company, tested 48 different formulations of pepper spray to determine if the O.C. is safe to use with a TASER. The results were not encouraging.
Using a forensics dummy wearing a t-shirt and jeans, the CRT Consulting test team applied a 10 second cycle from a M26 TASER, while spraying the mannequin with a 2-3 second burst of O.C. Of the 48 formulations tested, 12 were marked as “non flammable,” or “EDW Tested and Safe.” Of those 12, eight resulted in flames and ignition of the clothing, including the can marked “EDW Tested and Safe.”
Your department may want to contact CRT Consulting to determine if your pepper spray really is “non flammable.” Certainly, testing your current O.C./TASER combination should be a priority before something ugly happens to put you as the lead story in tonight’s news.
Prior to this magazine article, CRT published an article on PoliceOne about this subject here.
There are other concerns about the use of TASER-type devices on people with heart conditions. We can try to limit the exposure in those situations, but mixing flammable pepper spray with an electronic control device is completely preventable.