There have been a number of stories about “weapon confusion” discussed in police training circles. The idea of weapon confusion is where an officer, under stress, mistakes his or her duty pistol for a Taser and shoots someone they only intended to restrain. The potential consequences are devastating.
The American for Effective Law Enforcement tackles the issue in the June 2012 edition of their monthly law journal. The article compiles and examines all of the relevant case law on the issue and offers some suggestions and resources for training and additional information.
Shooting a suspect that you intended to control with a Taser is a very bad day for everyone. The suspect who was resisting arrest may wind up dead, and the officer(s) involved may be looking at prison time no matter how well intended their use of force was.
Reading through the media accounts of the BART shooting, you would think the officer gleefully executed an innocent citizen who was out doing charity work. This might not be a shock to some readers, but the media seems to have missed a variety of points including the fact that the decedent had previously been Tasered by the San Leandro PD while he was armed with a pistol.
The decedent, a convicted drug dealer out on parole, was not a good person. I’m not all broken up over the fact he is no longer in society victimizing more people. But, no one should be shot because of confusion over which weapon is being used. Is it a training issue? Who knows… I do know that one person is dead and an otherwise solid cop lost his job and was convicted of manslaughter.
(AELE posted notes from a presentation on the BART shooting given by Captain Greg Meyer (LAPD ret.) They are well worth reading. Living on the east coast of the states, the information I was getting was not terribly detailed, and I got additional information out of these notes.)