The United States Supreme Court permits it. Case Law across the country permits it and police officers almost everywhere can defend their life or someone else’s, except those that work in San Francisco and a few other cowardly led police agencies.
Standing as one of the most visible and contested policy changes in an era of reform for San Francisco’s police force, officers are prohibited from shooting suspects in a moving vehicle unless the suspect is using something other than the vehicle to pose harm.
SAFETAC Trainer Travis Yates teaches survival and risk management courses across the country and calls the decision one of the most deadliest that any police chief could make.
“Let’s forget for a minute that vehicles are one of the favorite means of killing for terrorists and just place your feet in the shoes of a San Francisco Police officer and a two thousand pound missile (car) is driving right at you and you can’t get away and you are unable to use force to stop them,” Yates told us.
Pointing to this week’s death of a Baltimore County officer after four teenagers ran her over in a car, Yates said that San Francisco’s policy is not realistic and only proves that those making decisions are a serious threat to law enforcement safety.
“The Chief should be ashamed of himself for not standing up to a small group of citizens that keep pushing for police deaths and injuries because that is exactly what will happen if you tell cops they can’t even defend their lives like an ordinary citizen would be permitted to,” Yates said.
Yates said he isn’t trying to use ‘scare tactics,’ and that San Francisco officers have already been run over by suspects when they were unable to use force to stop it (see below video).
Just this month, a San Francisco officer shot at burglary suspects when the fleeing vehicle attempted to run over another police officer.
An investigation has been launched.
“If in fact what was told to me happened, I believe that was a circumstance where the officer did the right thing,” said Tony Montoya, who recently became president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the union for rank-and-file officers. “We’re sworn to protect the public and uphold the law. Just because we wear a uniform doesn’t mean we should not be able to defend ourselves.”
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and mayoral candidate London Breed, who represents the district where the shooting happened, said at the town hall meeting that the shooting was “outside policy.”
It was the shooting of a fleeing auto theft suspect, 29-year-old Jessica Williams, that prompted the resignation of former Police Chief Greg Suhr in May 2016. Prosecutors later cleared the officer of potential charges, saying evidence showed she had driven in his direction.
San Francisco’s policy wasn’t just made up. Yates told us that PERF released the “30 Guiding Principles” document and that document was the basis for many agencies moving towards not shooting suspects in fleeing vehicles.
“No one should be paying attention to PERF” Yates exclaimed. While there are some good items in the document, Yates said that any organization that would advocate for this policy needs to be ignored. “It literally should tell the world that they have no clue what law enforcement faces today.”
Many agencies like LAPD and NYPD initially adopted PERF’s guideline but removed it when terrorist’s attacked their cities using vehicles.
Yates points to well established case law for agencies in adopting use of force guidelines. “I’ll take the United States Supreme Court over a bunch of non-cops in an office any day of the week,” he said.
Robert Johnson is a 20 year veteran law enforcement officer currently working at a large metropolitan agency. His assignments have included narcotics, gangs and training. He joined Law Officer in 2017 as an Associate Editor.