Are Police Warning Shots Making A Comeback?

Are Police Warning Shots Making A Comeback?

Why don’t the police fire warning shots? That’s a question that comes up a lot, especially after controversial shooting deaths.

Last fall, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and 10 other law enforcement groups got together to work out a consensus policy on the use of force — a sort of model document for local departments that want to update their rules. When the document came out in January, it contained a surprise: It allowed for warning shots.

For police trainers and use of force experts around the country, that news is still sinking in.

“The idea of warning shots has been prohibited for decades in policing,” says Lou Hayes Jr., a police officer and trainer with the Virtus Group Inc. “And to now open the door up again is pretty eye-opening.”

There’s never been a binding national rule against warning shots, but the IACP used to recommend that departments ban the practice. Leading agencies such as the New York Police Department have long had such bans in place.

The main concern is the risk. “When you raise the gun and blindly fire, you don’t know where that bullet will land,” says Massad Ayoob, a longtime cop and widely respected firearms trainer. “A few decades ago I followed a case in New England where the guy raised his gun, fired what he thought was into the air, and the bullet struck and killed someone on the top floor porch of a nearby tenement building.”

Firing at the ground can be just as dangerous, especially on streets or confined spaces. And Ayoob says the payoff usually isn’t what people imagine.

“Movies show people firing a shot in the air and the running man stops,” Ayoob says. “And that just ain’t how it happens in real life.” Often, he says, the gunshots just persuade a suspect to run faster.

Read More At NPR

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  1. LegalBeagle

    Yeah, this is clownshoes. No lawyer with a brain would approve such a policy except with the most stringent restrictions on use – restrictions that will mean almost never. Anyone who advocates for it as anything other than a rarity in the nature of a unicorn is a fool who needs to be run out of LE with as much alacrity as possible.

  2. Katrina

    Two reasons I think this a bad idea. 1.) Where does that warning round land? 2.) The officer has one less round left for the business of staying alive. Oh, and 3.) Who doesn’t already know the officer chasing them is armed and can shoot? You can tweak the use of force continuum just so much before you start going backwards. Time to stop listening to “the public” and educating them. There is no “take two” opportunity in real life.

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