“A superior gunman is best defined as one who uses his superior judgment in order to keep himself out of situations that would require the use of his superior skills.” –Jeff Cooper, creator of the Modern Technique of handgun shooting.
Across the nation police departments have barred the practice of shooting into moving vehicles. Rules regarding the use of force in Iowa lag significantly behind a vast majority of departments in the U.S.
Police in Denver say shooting into a moving vehicle is dangerous and rarely stops a vehicle. By disabling a driver you create an unguided missile situation where innocent bystanders and other officers are put at unnecessary risk.
See: Undercover officer rammed after Jerime Mitchell’s Avalanche was turned into a VBIED by Officer Jones.
“Moving into or remaining in the path of a moving vehicle, whether deliberate or inadvertent, shall not be justification for discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any occupant,” the policy in Denver states.
“We want the first reaction to be get out of the way rather than pull your firearm,” Police Chief Robert White told the Denver Post.
The Denver police consulted dozens of departments across the country to figure out the best practice.
The NYPD has prohibited officers from firing at moving vehicles for 15 years. No NYPD officer has been run over or “drug” by a car since the policy was instituted. Firing into a moving vehicle is considered so reckless, the model policy from the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends a complete ban on the practice.
The Cleveland Police Department, LAPD and Chicago PD all mandate that officers not fire on a moving vehicle. The U.S. Department of Justice has praised this policy.
Sgt. Bret Draughn of the Phoenix Police Department has seen cases where officers fired at a suspect in a car. Then after the shots were fired and the car continued toward them, they moved out of the way.
“The question I like to ask is, what saved your life? Shooting or moving out of the way?” Draughn says.
“Generally, the answer is, moving out of the way. So if moving out of the way was the best way to escape the attack, shouldn’t that be the first option instead of the second option?”
In the Lucas Jones circumstance, what saved his life?
Shooting Jerime Mitchell or letting go of the truck as it gained speed?
This isn’t Hollywood. In real life, handgun fire is unlikely to stop or disable a moving vehicle. Repeated incidents nationwide involving officers shooting into moving cars has led law enforcement trainers to rethink tactical position when dealing with suspects inside of vehicles.
In 31 cases independently reviewed by Police Mag, officers involved in these cases often move themselves in the path of the vehicle in the early stages of the confrontation, in an attempt to ‘control’ the suspect and prevent them from fleeing the scene.
Dr. Bill Lewinski, director of the Force Science Research Center at Mankato State University, told Police Mag that officers become fixated or focused on what is most important “in the scene” to them. They may become so fixated on the suspect in the vehicle that they do not perceive what is in the background.
This research should sound familiar to those following the Mitchell shooting.
Craig Stapp of Police Mag puts it like this:
Many officers think that the best way to stop a fleeing driver is to shoot. But ask yourself this: What happens to the vehicle if you hit that driver?
And let’s say your shots do incapacitate the driver. This will not immediately stop his or her vehicle. It will keep coming at you or become an unguided missile careening down the street.
We’ve learned from the Mitchell case that even when a human being is mortally wounded, they can still operate a car, albeit involuntarily.
Stapp writes the solution isn’t as simple as telling officers “just get out of the way.”
Training should keep officers from getting in the way in the first place. When possible we must position ourselves in a location to prevent an attack. When it is not possible or when we failed to take a good tactical position initially, we must immediately begin to move and create distance if the vehicle begins to move.
This is the reaction that trainers need to instill into officers.
They need to recognize when they are at a tactical disadvantage and move into a better position.