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Cops confront deadly decisions daily
BURIEN As Washington and the world watched hundreds of
World Trade Organization protestors being doused with pepper spray and
shot with rubber bullets, many questioned whether the use of force by police
Before the conference, members of the King County Sheriff's
Office Citizen's Academy traveled to the Washington State Criminal
Justice Training Center to learn more about why and when officers need to
use force in their jobs.
"About 98 percent of the time deputies can resolve [disputes]
verbally," said Advanced Training Sgt. Dave Jutilla. "But, in 2 percent [of
the cases], they need to use some sort of force."
He defined force as, "to compel someone to do something he/she
does not wish to do, by overcoming resistance through exertion of
strength, weight, power authority or duress." When an officer is confronted with
a situation, they generally go through a multi-step process to determine
how to handle the problem. First, the deputy tries to speak with the
suspect while carefully observing the person's non-verbal cues are their eyes
darting or are their fists clenched?
If the person doesn't respond to police orders or becomes violent,
the officer can either use pepper spray or physically escort the suspect
away from the area. When that doesn't work, the deputy can opt to use
higher levels of force including aggressive restraint, use of batons,
flashlights, etc., and finally, deadly contact.
A deputy's decision to pull out their weapon is not an easy one,
Jutilla said. Each officer must follow the rules and guidelines set by the
Sheriff's Office and then justify why they chose a particular response.
To prepare the officers for the streets, all deputies are required
to practice role-playing scenarios at the Firearm Training Center. The
$80,000 machine plays a series of events on a life-sized screen and supervisors
critique the officers' responses. One of the most important aspects that
deputies need to remember while pursuing a suspect is to not jeopardize the
safety of others.
"If he runs away, we'll catch him another day," said Deputy
Russ Patterson. "We have to account for every bullet we use."
Deputies are encouraged to yell out commands to the screen such
as "Police, don't move" and "Drop
the weapon" to simulate a real situation. That way, Patterson said, they will
instinctively know how to react because they have practiced it numerous
times. And when a deputy's life is in danger, they must do all they can to
protect themselves and others, he said.
"We don't train to shoot to kill or wound," Patterson said. "We train
to shoot to eliminate or stop the fight and eliminate the threat. They just
don't die like [on] TV rarely does that happen."
"When an officer pulls out a weapon [the] intent is to use it as
a deadly weapon," added Sgt. Ken Wardstrom, of the Woodinville
police. "We try to stop the threat. If we take
a wounding shot would that stop the threat?
"In our job no one wants to shoot our weapon; we're forced into the
Note: When it was the reporter's turn to try out the Firearm
Training System, she shot the bad guy in his groin at least a half dozen times.
The two were engaged in a gun battle, but the reporter finally won.