Two FBI guys, one Maryland State cop and an aspiring law enforcement officer want you to know that cops exercise a lot of restraint. They don’t always shoot people when they could. As my J-school prof told me, never to put stats into the lede, so you’ll either have to click here to read Restraint in the Use of Deadly Force or make the jump for highlights, as provided by a forcescience.org email blast. Suffice it to say the report’s authors are almost as sensitive about their credibility (“the fact that this study was preliminary does not diminish its significance”) as they are about media bias (“this media focus on the use of deadly force helps create the misconception that police officers use deadly force more often than they actually do”). The authors reckon the idea that there’s “excessive and widespread use of deadly force within the law enforcement community” is hokum. And they’ve got the stats to prove it. Or do they . . .

[Dr. Anthony Pinizzotto, Edward Davis, Shannon Bohrer and Benjamin Infanti] polled nearly 300 LEOs, with an average of 17 years on the job. Collectively, the officers had more than 5,000 years of experience.

• 80% reported that “they had been assaulted at least once during their career” (the average was seven assaults in the line of duty), with 27% injured severely enough to require time off work;

• 96% said they had drawn their firearms “at least once each year…under threatening or critical circumstances”;

• 70% said they had been “involved in at least one situation where they legally could have discharged their firearm.” On average, each had experienced four such situations;

• Yet only 20% had actually fired their weapon in a critical incident.

“Officers in the sample were involved in 1,189 situations where deadly force was a legal course of action,” the researchers note.

“Officers used deadly force in 7% of these situations. In other words, [they] used restraint 93% of the time even when not legally mandated to do so. This…represents a significant amount of restraint by police officers.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Interestingly, the FBI-published document says cops are responsible for 385 homicides per year. What’s the bet that civilian defensive gun use accounts for twice that number? I wonder how much restraint those of us on the other side of the thin blue line use.

Hey, did you know you are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist? True story.

45 Responses to FBI: Cops Don’t Shoot Civilians As Often As They Could, Legally

    • true, and if they cooked the books like the Brady gangbanger, no telling what the actual numbers are, do have to say; with numbers that low, hmmmm

      • You mean you saw a video of a cop shooting a pit bull, owned by a homeless junkie, which was charging the police officer. You also neglected to mention that the dog owner’s friends said, “We all said if he was passed out or overdosing, we just have to wait for the ambulance to arrive because we don’t want to get bitten.”.

        I’ve been chased by pit bulls when out on my bike. They suck. Never had to shoot one, but I will not hesitate do do so if one cuts me off and acts aggressively.

  1. If I remember correctly, that screen grab that is posted was some guy doing like 100mph + on the road and recording with his helmet cam and the guy with the gun is an offduty cop stopping him.

        • Roll: He identified himself as State Police only after he said “Get off the motorcyle” three times and had his gun in his hand for 4-5 seconds.

        • Gun was out and he moved toward him (from his unmarked, tinted-windowed Impala) before he ID’d (he was touching the bike by the time he said “State Police”). If he had been a civilian acting the way he did, the motorcyclist would have been justified in using force to defend himself from what definitely appeared an imminent threat.

          More to the point, why do we feel the need to make an implied threat (the drawn firearm) to a guy speeding on his motorcycle? Howabout we give a badge a try first?

        • maybe the implied threat of the idiot on the 120+ mph projectile on a public road with all sorts of potential victems was enough of a reason to show his weapon.

        • Ymean the one that was stopped, no longer going 120mph, and blocked by the officer’s car?

        • maybe the implied threat of the idiot on the 120+ mph projectile on a public road with all sorts of potential victems was enough of a reason to show his weapon.

          Considering the average bluehair gabbing on the phone while doing 80 mph in a SUV is considerably more dangerous than a motorcycle doing 120-130, good luck with that.

          For the uninitiated: ~120 mph on a modern sport bike is somewhere near the top of second gear. It is a speed that can be reached in around six seconds, and can scrub that speed back down to ~60 in around two seconds.

          In the hands of even a marginally competent rider, they are quite safe even at relatively high speed, and if they do tangle with a car at speed, the rider is going to be the one going home in a pail.

          At worst, the actions of the biker constituted a traffic citation. Drawing a weapon and going all mall commando was a gross overreaction.

      • @ Matt in FL: Yep was just watching that vid a minute ago

        @ Mike S: “More to the point, why do we feel the need to make an implied threat (the drawn firearm) to a guy speeding on his motorcycle? ”

        I’ve seen cops shot and killed on routine traffic stops(tickets, expired tags, etc). Its not pretty and angers me very much, cop is just trying to protect himself and make sure he goes home at the end of the day. Plus he probably wanted to make sure the guy didnt do one of those “World’s wildest police chase” thingy’s and book it.

        “Howabout we give a badge a try first?”

        As Robert DeNiro once said: “Most people respect the badge, everyone respects the gun.”

        • Which explains why a few weeks later, 6 cops showed up at the motorcyclists house with a

          “search and seizure warrant for all of my computers, cameras and electronics.. They also bring an arrest warrant for ‘wiretapping’ and 2 additional traffic violations.”

          Some people crave nothing more than to lick the boot stomping on a human face, forever.

        • Ah, no discussion of police-citizen interaction is complete without someone making a “bootlicker” reference.

          Thank you, anonymous.

          RF, we can close this thread now, it’s all been covered.

        • Guy is on a motorcycle. Both hands visible. Broad daylight.

          Let’s be honest here. The cop was pissed. Kid did 127mph, and put the front wheel up on a busy motorway.

          IMHO, if a guy can’t come up with a way to make his point without clearing leather at a traffic stop, he may not be cut out for the profession.

        • You know what I would have respected, that motorcyclist explaining he shot an unidentified man who first tried to hit him with his car, then pulled a gun on him.

          Hindsight is 20/20, but that angry dude getting out of that car brandishing a weapon could have been anybody, and if that motorcyclist had shot him in self-defense, I would have said it was a righteous kill, cop or not.

        • …cop is just trying to protect himself and make sure he goes home at the end of the day.

          Were that the case, he would have called in a description and direction of travel of the bike, and let marked cars take care of it.

          This guy was suffering from inadequate penile syndrome, plain and simple.

        • If I’d been the guy on the bike and carrying, that cop would’ve been dead. He pulled a gun and waited until AFTER pointing a gun at the rider and shouting at him for several seconds before claiming to be a cop with no ID shown.

          I’ve seen cops shot and killed on routine traffic stops(tickets, expired tags, etc). Its not pretty and angers me very much

          Seeing how they’re out harassing people to earn extra revenue, I don’t feel a damn bit of sympathy for a cop who gets killed while harassing someone trying to get from point A to point B.


        • http://www.adamcarolla.com/dr-drew-live-from-the-jon-lovitz-comedy-club/
          Posted on: 07-4-2012
          SHOW SUMMARY
          . . .
          “Later they talk about the ‘leap second,’ and a woman who went to jail
          for warning people about a speed trap. As the show wraps up, Adam
          explains why he’s not a bad dad, and goes on a massive rant about cops
          who write chicken shit tickets.”

          Adam Carolla’s rant about the police as revenue enhancers starts at around 1:27:45

          You can download this podcast as a 45 MB .mp3 file from
          http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/theadamcarollashow/2012.07.05ACS.mp3

    • My cousin’s friend’s brother told me he was flipping everyone the bird too. That unidentified lunatic off-duty cop waving a gun around would have been totally justified filling him full of lead.

    • “80% reported that ‘they had been assaulted at least once during their career’ (the average was seven assaults in the line of duty), with 27% injured severely enough to require time off work;”

      Does “assaulted” include being video taped, and being “injured severely” include the emotional trauma of having been caught on video tape?

  2. i don’t believe that most of us want to shoot somebody. i think that most of us just want to make it through the day without being effed with. i know that blanket statements are chancy, but i believe that for the most part cops don’t want to have to shoot people either. we take offense when all gun owners are lumped in with the idiots that misuse guns and i think it’s equally offensive to lump all cops in with the bad ones. let the flames begin.

    • I think most cops are tiny little men hiding in big scary uniforms, and my guess is the vast majority of them pine for the day that they have an excuse to cap somebody. Can someone point me to a story where one or more armed LTC holders dump full mags into unarmed ‘suspects’ and then get off Scott-free?

      Didn’t think so.

      • And you’re a guy insulting an entire profession based on probably a handful of interactions at most, hiding behind a fake name on the internet.

        Pot, meet kettle.

        • I’m not hiding… is Orly your full legal name, or does the question mark count as your last name?

          I am absolutely, positively not knee jerking to a conclusion based on a few videos on the internet. Videos are what we’re talking about now, but the issue of abuse of power is clearly systemic in nature and statistics indicate it’s gotten worse since the passing of laws intended to combat terrorism but instead used to harass and violate the rights of citizens.

  3. Kind of depends on the neighborhood eh? How about today in South Africa…yikes…but you know this video is really excellent. Notice the commander remains calm, and in charge of his guys. Unlike a NYPD shooting just the other day in the city. Running around, frantic, out of control. Not judging, just noting.

    “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YRJyjoOvC4”

  4. not shooting people when they might be justified in doing so and shooting people when they aren’t justified aren’t mutually exclusive concepts….

  5. All I can do is speak from personal experience. I could have used deadly force a lot more often than I did. Period. I know…all cops are just looking to shoot someone and eager to violate everyone’s rights….yadda tired ole yadda yadda.

    • My dad was a cop for 30 years, and never fired his weapon in the line of duty. He was a State Trooper in one state for 20 years, then moved to another and was a deputy for 10.

      As a State Trooper he never even had to draw his revolver. Not once. But that was back in the day when police were allowed to use their nightsticks. He threw more than a few beatings, but nobody died. Well placed hits with a nightstick carry far less chance of death than TASERs or even pepper spray.

      As a deputy he didn’t have a nightstick, a TASER, or even pepper spray(the department has TASERs now, but he’s retired). He told me he drew his weapon far more as a deputy, but his explanation was that people in his new location had far less respect for the police. Lots of aggression, lots of disrepect, people wanting to fight, etc.

      I think we should take TASERs and pepper spray away from police, and issue them .357 revolvers and PR-24 nightsticks. Having 18 rounds total onboard would make them better marksmen, and having the nightstick might encourage the public to be calmer and less aggressive. People don’t look at TASERs and pepper spray as a big deal, because most people have no experience with how unpleasant they are, but everybody understands the concept of a big fucking stick.

      • Ah yes, use force to keep the peasants in line. Glad to know that you take pride in your dad beating unarmed people with a nightstick. That’s not cowardly or anything….

    • I would hope you would be proud of your restraint. Unnecessary shootings enrage the masses and justifiably so. I liked it better when the police were refereed to as peace officers as opposed to law enforcement. There was more peace and less force.

  6. Does a cop have more “authority” to shoot someone than I do? Are they not subject to the same laws governing the use of deadly physical force? Or are they excluded in some states?

    • When a regular old civilian shoots someone by mistake they go to jail.

      When a cop shoots someone by mistake they get paid leave.

      Roughly equivalent punishments, I’d say!

  7. I guess that we should all be deeply, deeply grateful that cops don’t exercise their trigger fingers more than they do, but excuse me for not genuflecting. I’m a bit more concerned about the unjustified shootings by police than I am about their non-shootings. Maybe there’s some kind of cosmic program that awards points to cops for non-shootings that can be redeemed for unjustified shootings, but I never got the memo.

    This is one goofball study. The study was based on interviews with cops. Cops who falsify evidence and strongarm confessions out of people. Yeah, those guys.

  8. right because the FBI is so damned credible. They would say something like that. After all, hoover’s minions have proved themselves exceedingly well at murder, subversion, illegal espionage, and cherry picking who gets to go to prison and who doesnt. I personally believe the agency should be disbanded and the entire organization, per person, investigated for crimes against the constitution and the american people.

  9. If 2 officers give conflicting orders the officer that is not obeyed can shoot. Fact is the powers that be will bend over backwards and contort into extreme positions to call a shooting by police legal.

    That said I think most in law enforcement don’t want to kill anyone, just as most of us don’t want to kill anyone. Problem is the bad ones seem to be accepted (and often promoted).

    • Well, the majority probably don’t want to kill anyone, they just want to use the threat of killing you to get you to submit to their every corrupt whim.

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