Warning Shots Part Of National Consensus Use Of Force Policy

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and ten other leading law enforcement leadership and labor organizations placed the issue of warning shots in their National Consensus Policy that will be discussed in detail at the IACP National Conference in Philadelphia next week and Law Officer has been told by the IACP that they do not recommend using warning shots.

In his last message, IACP President Donald De Luca defined a warning shot as a “discharge of a firearm for the purpose of compelling compliance from an individual but not intended to cause physical injury.”

De Luca added that a warning shot must be fired into a safe target and “must not pose a substantial risk of injury or death to the officers or others.”

In the IACP “National Consensus Policy On The Use Of Force,” published in January 2017, warning shots are addressed and authorized if “use of force is justified.”

Telling Law Officer that “warning shots were perhaps the most debated inclusion in the Consensus Policy,” Former IACP President Terrence M. Cunningham said that “the policy is solely intended to serve as a template for law enforcement agencies to develop their policies…and agencies should amend and adapt these suggested guidelines as they see fit.”

Many police chief’s including Detroit Police Chief James Craig called using warning shots “one of the most ridiculous things” he has heard of.   “Hollywood-ish,” “irresponsible,” and impractical, are adjectives the police chief used to describe the idea.

Cunningham stressed that “what may work for a small rural department with one or two officers may not work for a larger agency in an urban environment like a NYPD. In the policy, we specifically state that warning shots are inherently dangerous.”

The IACP serves 30,000 members in 150 countries.  Along with the IACP, the following organizations helped to develop the consensus policy:

  • Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies
  • Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Fraternal Order of Police
  • Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
  • International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training
  • National Association of Police Organizations
  • National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • National Tactical Officers Association

While the IACP does not recommend warning shots, they did express that there may be an incident that could be resolved or deescalated because an officer has that option available under the very strict guidelines that they and ten other organizations have provided for agencies to help build and assist in use of force policy development.

I will be the first to say that I have not always agreed with the IACP and I doubt they have always agreed with me.  I applauded Chief Cunningham’s apology last year when others were not happy with it and thus not happy with me and that is ok.  Law enforcement is a complex and complicated profession and the IACP is serving the smallest agency to the largest along with department’s in the United States to small villages.  Their job is immense and so is the job of Law Officer and each and every police officer.

Law Officer does what we do for you, the law enforcement professional and I firmly believe that IACP does the same.  The work done on the National Consensus Use Of Force Policy is commendable and I look forward to additional discussions in Philadelphia next week.

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  1. Samuel Fivey

    With the preface that I work for a decent sized agency with a policy that strongly discourages but does not forbid warning shots, I do not have the immediate, visceral reaction some seem to have.

    Since the above article doesn’t include the language actually used, here is what the whole sections says:

    b. Warning shots are inherently dangerous. Therefore, a warning shot must have a defined target and shall not be fired unless

    (1) the use of deadly force is justified;

    (2) the warning shot will not pose a substantial risk of injury or death to the officer or others; and

    (3) the officer reasonably believes that the warning shot will reduce the possibility that deadly force will have to be used.

    Could this be easier in a suburban or rural agency? Yes. Could it be viable in a fairly static event that has some degree of containment on the suspect? Yes. Is it going to work in every event? Nope, not by a long shot. I’ll argue that it is a discussion we should have before it gets shoved down our throats without our input.

    I mentioned my organization doesn’t forbid them. We’ve had three claimed ones in nearly thirty years. One was legit & succeeded in ending the event. One was a ND that the individual claimed was a ND. Never have gotten the circus on the third. They just aren’t common, even for us.

    If people are opposing this because of rounds winging throughout the community, what is your agency’s hit ratio in shootings currently?

  2. KWB

    What untrained, uneducated idiot came up with the idea of warning shots? How do you control these rounds, and where do they go; how do you account for the unjustifiable damage or potential unlawful death they cause. Whatever happen to having to account for and be responsible for all deadly force rounds. What happened to target identification, target isolation and being fearful for your life, or some other justification

  3. LegalBeagle

    The whole idea is so inconsistent with firearm safety, the law (mostly civil law about negligence, but also the Constitutional standard for use of force* by LE) and ethics that anyone who supported this stupidity in the committee needs a guardianship. The idea that we would place others at risk to avoid shooting someone when shooting them in justified is utterly insane and completely irresponsible.

    *Technically probably not a use of force under the 4th amendment analysis; I would have to poke around in my case law collection to find the correct citation. That does not make it less stupid.

  4. guns2317

    This concept is so full of fail I could write all day about it. Alas, this is just a perfect illustration of how Chiefs completely forget where they came from and are entirely out of touch with those serving on the streets. The IACP in no way at all represents the overall views of those who take calls for a living.

  5. D. M. Warshevsky

    Nutty idea. Being a 28 year recently retired cop, never would this pass a court. Never. Someone has been watching too much T.J. Hooker or the Three Stooges.

  6. Todd

    Well we certainly shoot to incapacitate, heart and brain box and all. But once they’re in capacitated we don’t finish them off – we transition to trying to save their life – the rest is up to the good Lord.
    I thought goofy loops were about the worst forms of hesitation risking and getting us killed. Telling them to drop the gun 35 times whilst we abdicate the decision of deadly force to the unjust aggressors (wolf sounds too mean today – no?) who upon seeing lawful authority thinks it a good idea to fill his hand with a firearm. This would be worse as while we take aim at some “safe space” to shoot at, the unjustness agressor could just ready up, and end our life.

    Have they considered just shooting at he gun out of their hands? That shouldn’t be too hard right? Sarcasm.

  7. Bo

    First of all, Peace Officers do not “shoot to kill” they shoot to stop a threat of imminent death or grievous bodily injury or death to self or innocent others. Secondly, if deadly force is authorized, then why unnecessarily cause hesitation and confusion by adding yet another layer to the clear standard of Graham and its progeny? This is a politician’s rather than a tactician’s way out of specious problems raised by the unknowing!

  8. LegalBeagle

    I could not give an accurate response to this level of stupidity without risking being banned for good cause, but I’ll try. Billy Madison would be ashamed that anyone advocated such a moronic position. This flies in the face of all good judgment in handling of firearms; placing anyone down range from the round addressed “to whim it may concern”, to address the stupid concerns of cowardly command officers who don’t know enough or have the spine to defend their officers’ legally inane uses of lethal force from the crazies who critique those shootings with no basis in law or fact for their positions. There is nothing you can do with someone that far off base except a Loudermill hearing, a trespass notice, and a guardianship. This stupidity would gag a forensic entomologist.

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