When Should Officers Use Deadly Force?

5:28 PM, Sep 6, 2011   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Saturday night, Columbia Police shot and killed 24-year-old Dexter Addison.

They were responding to gunshots going off at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Two Notch Road. Police say several people were exchanging gunfire in a crowd.

Columbia police have said the officer involved responded properly. As in all such shootings where deadly force is used by an officer, the State Law Enforcement Division is investigating.

"It's the threat that you need to understand and it's the threat that needs to be analyzed," said USC Criminology Professor Geoffrey Alpert.

When an officer uses deadly force, Alpert says it comes down to one thing.

"There is a balance, there is a government intrusion in taking your life, the government intruding in using force against you which is balanced against what you've done, what you're likely to do, that's known and the situation you find yourself in," he said.

Alpert says ideally, with enough time, an officer could shout a warning before shooting but that's not always possible

"Officers could shoot the hand, or shoot the foot, or do something like that but that's movies, that's tv. In reality because this is a very stressful anxiety-ridden event officers shoot to remove the threat," said Alpert.

The Columbia City Council plans to update it's policy on use of force for the CPD, adding language for electronic control devices such as tasers.

Councilman Brian DeQuincy Newman says they've planned to address the policy for weeks at the request of the police department.

"We like to have a clear understanding with all of our officers that they not only use the minimum amount of force necessary to accomplish any law enforcement objective, but also that they're just aware of potential consequences of using force," said Newman.

The proposed policy says officers must give medical assistance when they use force and requires they complete a report after use of force situations.

View the proposed Columbia Use of Force Policy here.

Council plans to vote on the policy Tuesday night.

Still, Alpert says most events where officers can use deadly force come down to protect life.

"If they've come across a situation where a suspect has used deadly force or that type of force that would seriously injure of kill someone they're justified in taking that life," said Alpert.

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