The internet is on fire following the release of the video of a deadly shooting outside a Carl’s Jr. in East LA. Armchair commandos, Canadian car guys, average Joes, military vets and law enforcement professionals have all had their say. Some agree with the actions of the Monterey Park PD, some think it could have been handled differently. I am not a lawyer. I only played one in college. But I would remind you that in most states a private citizen would be perfectly within their rights to shoot someone attacking them with a conduit bender, without the need to seek alternative methods to deescalate the situation. However, as a peace officer, I’m here to say that Law Enforcement Officials (LEOs) are bound by the use of force continuum. . .
The definitions from each of these sections are taken straight from the National Institute of Justice, and are verbatim what I was taught.
- Officer Presence — No force is used. Considered the best way to resolve a situation. The mere presence of a law enforcement officer works to deter crime or diffuse a situation. Officers’ attitudes are professional and nonthreatening.
- Verbalization — Force is not-physical. Officers issue calm, nonthreatening commands, such as “Let me see your identification and registration.” Officers may increase their volume and shorten commands in an attempt to gain compliance. Short commands might include “Stop,” or “Don’t move.”
- Empty-Hand Control — Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation. Soft technique. Officers use grabs, holds and joint locks to restrain an individual. Hard technique. Officers use punches and kicks to restrain an individual.
- Less-Lethal Methods — Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation. Blunt impact. Officers may use a baton or projectile to immobilize a combative person. Chemical. Officers may use chemical sprays or projectiles embedded with chemicals to restrain an individual (e.g., pepper spray). Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs). Officers may use CEDs to immobilize an individual. CEDs discharge a high-voltage, low-amperage jolt of electricity at a distance.
- Lethal Force — Officers use lethal weapons to gain control of a situation. Should only be used if a suspect poses a serious threat to the officer or another individual. Officers use deadly weapons such as firearms to stop an individual’s actions.
This is the progression of force that dictates how a LEO should respond to any call, dictated by department policy. Ideally, you start with officer presence and work your way up from there, depending on the situation presented.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re dispatched to a call where a man is in a public area wielding a large blunt object in a threatening manner. The man sees that the cops have arrived, but he just doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Officer presence then goes out the window.
Now we can’t hear what the cops were saying in the video, but I would imagine at some point they utilized verbalization and ordered the man to stop what he was doing and drop his weapon. Obviously that didn’t work either.
At that point you have to adapt to the situation.
Empty hand control would be and should be skipped in this situation. Many have said he should have been “rushed” by the cops or the dog, assuming it’s a bite dog, which would have led to the use of empty hand techniques. In either of these situations there is a high probability that someone in law enforcement would be seriously injured. Blunt force trauma to the head is not what I would call a good time.
We then move along the continuum to less lethal methods.
Utilizing blunt impact (baton) would still leave you open for more unnecessary bodily harm as you would easily be in range of his weapon. You generally have to be pretty close to utilize chemical agents as well; they’re easily affected by environmental factors, such as wind or rain. I’ve seen firsthand that OC does not always affect people as adversely as it’s advertised. So we are left with our Conducted Energy Devices or Tasers.
Oft times Tasers are deployed too readily when other methods could have been used effectively. The Carl Jr shooting’s doesn’t appear to be one of those situations. The officer in the video used the device that would keep the assailant at the furthest distance and hopefully incapacitate him without the need for lethal force. When that didn’t work he attempted to holster his Taser—instead of dropping it and drawing his sidearm.
That’s when the assailant advanced on the officer and we find ourselves at the end of the continuum, lethal force.
The K9 officer fires five shots in order to protect his co-worker and, at least in my estimation, stops the threat. Whether the other officer just felt like he needed to get his shots in; there’s certainly a chance that he fell victim to what’s called “sympathetic fire.” Or there may have been a genuine reason for officer two to fire another five shots. That remains to be seen.
The long and the short of all this: the officer followed the use of force continuum. Lethal force was deployed as a last resort.
In my estimation, this was a justified shooting. The investigation will probably reflect that view. Not because cops are corrupt or the system is rigged, but because a man threatened serious bodily harm or death with a dangerous weapon. For LEOs and CC’ers that’s the gold standard of when we can use deadly force to defend our lives or others with a firearm.