Taser Use Demanded In Seattle Police Shooting Of Woman With A Knife

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A Seattle police officer involved in a fatal shooting asked his partner to use a taser on the woman who was brandishing a knife but according to police audio transcripts show the officer said: “I don’t have a taser.”

Authorities say 30-year-old Charleena Lyles  confronted the two officers Sunday when they responded to a burglary call at her apartment. Family members have questioned why police didn’t use non-lethal options when they knew Lyles had been struggling with mental health issues.

The transcript of the police recording released by authorities shows that one of them said “get back” and “Tase her” and the other officer replied: “I don’t have a taser.”

The transcript released by police late Monday shows that one of the officers also said “we need help” and they were facing “a woman with two knives.”

The initial conversation between the pregnant woman and the two Seattle police officers seemed polite, professional and calm. She let them into her apartment. They asked her about the video game console she reported stolen.

But the confrontation quickly erupted. A police audio recording has the officers shouting “get back!” and the woman saying “do it! do it!”

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said that neither officer was armed with a taser and that Seattle officers are given the option of carrying a taser, pepper spray or a baton as a less-than-lethal option.

Law Officer Editor In Chief Travis Yates says that the continual demand for officers to use less lethal options when they face a deadly weapon is concerning and not practical in many situations.

“I understand why some ask why a Taser could not have been used and law enforcement should do everything they can to limit deadly force but less lethal weapons and the case law surrounding the use of deadly force never intended for police officers to take a “less lethal” weapon to a “deadly”weapon fight. While we often see police officers avoiding deadly force in a legitimate deadly force situation, to expect that in every single case is both dangerous and unfair to the men and women that we trust to protect themselves and the public,” Yates said


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    • Joe Eshleman

      The Brits have about two or three killings a year. One would probably expect that they are terrorists brandishing weapons; the United States has over one thousand deaths a year. That cannot be an accident.

    • LegalBeagle

      They take unreasonable risks to their own safety and that of uninvolved citizens, based on the moronic belief that the well being of an offender who has not submitted to arrest is on a par of that of cops and other citizens. American LE shoots a tiny percentage of those it could (and by necessary implication should) each year (about 5%). Our society would be a lot better if more offenders were killed by LE and private citizens.

      I met a former London metro officer who had become a US cop about 20 years ago when I was doing the lateral academy after moving here. He had learned a lot about the unreasonable risks he used to take because he didn’t know better as a result of the unsound philosophy and bad training of British cops.

      • ahaz

        They don’t take unreasonable risks, they just respect the lives of the citizens in which they interact. Secondarily, they are trained to deal with those types of situations and ARE EXPECTED to be able to handle a edge weapon situation without deadly force. Most importantly, their society doesn’t shrug their collective shoulders whenever a cop needlessly kills a citizen. Cops are scrutinized and held accountable for their behavior. There were over 27,000 incidents where British cops encountered a citizen in 2015 and only ONE citizen lost their live due to it. Why is that?

        • LegalBeagle

          American LE uses force rarely. Lethal force is even more rare, and FAR less than justified (like MAYBE 5%) of the time it could (and should) be used. American LE is very respectful of the well-being of the people we police, but any resistance is unlawful and will be overcome. Respect is a two way street – if someone presents a potentially lethal threat to LE, they, and only they, are responsible for the use of force to overcome that lethal threat.

          The Brits do not value the lives and well-being of their cops as they should; officer safety and that of the citizens we are protecting must always be a much higher priority than that of the criminal who does not submit to control as required by law.

          As for this incident, I offer this commentary I made to colleagues right after the news came out:

          Sad, but a reflection of lots of things. The MH system everywhere in this country sucks. Terribly. MH advocates, along with those of us in the court system, have been howling about this for years to no avail. We need facilities for a lot of people, but not the medieval hellholes that resulted in the deinstitutionalization movement. Try being a cop (BTDT) who has to deal with these folks in the field. Try being a prosecutor stuck with trying to address some of them once in the system (BTDT). My friends in defense; the judiciary, and corrections all have the same experiences differing only by context. Most of these folks are just … pathetic, not dangerous. I’ve talked a few into cooperation, and had to fight a couple. Many simply cannot function in public, but note the lack of facilities. And they do not merely become offenders or at least social problems (and some part of that is because many people are wimps and can’t handle the different); they also become victims.

          That said, if they become dangerous, their mental health is only a tangential issue. Sad, but true. The law and the facts are as follows (from a response I wrote elsewhere; I’m actually qualified to write this, as I am a real lawyer, work and write in this area of the law and not now nor have I ever been an AAG or AUSA, the dregs of government law):

          Police officers get to control their professional encounters. This may mean among other options using our presence; threatening the use of force, or imposing physical control against the wishes of the subject. The law is clear, and has been this way for several decades. “The risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation.” Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 702-703 (1981). This is true in any non-consensual encounter. Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 258 (2007)(citations omitted). The statutes of most if not all states have the same effect.

          Understand, also, that cops have a duty to take action. “Other than random attacks, all such cases begin with the decision of a police officer to do something, to help, to arrest, to inquire. If the officer had decided to do nothing, then no force would have been used. In this sense, the police officer always causes the trouble. But it is trouble which the police officer is sworn to cause, which society pays him to cause and which, if kept within constitutional limits, society praises the officer for causing.” Plakas v. Drinski, 19 F. 3d 1143, 1150 (7th Cir. 1994). Law Enforcement is not a people pleasing business; it is a coercive compliance business. The ugly nature of the lawful use of force is a fact, but “ugly” and “unreasonable” are not at all synonymous. The offender may be hurt because of his or her own actions, but any outrage must be directed at the offender, not the police officer who is fulfilling his or her duty.

          The actual standard for the use of force is simple, and a matter of constitutional law; analytically the use of force is a form of seizure under the 4th Amendment. The officer must be “reasonable” under the circumstances. Being factually correct is not the standard, nor would it be sound. (And this standard is based on and virtually identical to the standard for civilians acting in self-defense.) Whatever the offender is in any other portion of their life, and before the moments leading up to the use of force, is simply not relevant to the analysis unless a history of violence is known to the officer(s). There are occasional events that have been revealed to be truly unfortunate, the result of facts that were not what they reasonably appeared at the time. Sad, tragic and many other adjectives apply to such events, and they are understandably traumatic to all involved, including the officers. That does not make the officers’ conduct “wrong”. All that matters is the officers’ perception and conduct at the time force is used, assessed through the insight and experience of the officers involved.
          “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 392 U. S. 20-22. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U. S. 797 (1971) … ” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). The test is not based on hindsight, the ugliness of any significant use of force, or the ignorance of reporters, friends of the offenders, or others unqualified to assess the matter. “The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” 490 U.S. at 396-397.

          Next: the sad truth about the mentally ill is that not one place in the US of which I have ever heard has a decent system. In fact, they suck. The biggest single provider of MH case in this country in correctional facilities as a whole. That is sick, obscene, wrong, and not the fault of the cops, prosecutors, defense bar, judiciary, or corrections personnel. Trust me, we are some of the loudest voices in pointing it out. This is entirely the fault of legislative bodies. We need institutions for the dangerous that are not overcrowded, underfunded, and sometimes staffed with some questionable stuff. We need useful support structures for those who can function in society with support. None of the stuff exists.

          Further, while there can be similarities between the mentally ill and some drug effected individuals, they are not the same. I’ve dealt with some mentally ill folks in the street and in the courtroom. A small number were dangerous. The fact that they are dangerous IS ALL THAT MATTERS. The safety of cops and uninvolved civilians is and must be the priority over the safety of any offender, regardless of why they are dangerous. “The question was not, as the district judge believed, Pena’s actual mental state. That was irrelevant to the reasonableness of Leombruni’s action in shooting him – as would be obvious had Leombruni been in danger of being seriously injured not by Pena but by Pena’s dog. Very little mentation is required for deadly action. A rattlesnake is deadly but could not form the mental state required for conviction of murder. Whatever Pena’s mental problems (apparently he was high on cocaine), they were not such as to prevent him from beating Leombruni’s brains out with a chunk of concrete. Leombruni was entitled to defend himself whether or not Pena, had he assaulted him, and been prosecuted for the offense, would have been acquitted on the ground of insanity.” Pena v. Leombruni, 200 F. 3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1999).

          Ms. Lyles should not have been in public, nor should she have been in the criminal justice system. She should have been in a decent and safe setting appropriate to her mental condition. That is not the fault of the cops. They went to a report of a crime against her, made by her, and her condition resulted in an attempt to murder the cops (and maybe at least one of her kids). Wherever you go, there you are.

  1. LegalBeagle

    In the 9th Circuit, Tasers are functionally restricted to circumstances in which they are not appropriate because the offender is too violent. Tasers, beanbags, and other less than lethal tools have a very limited range of utility, and are so rarely useful that we would be better off if no one had them. Use of a Taser here is a good example – as far as anyone can tell from the information available, it was never an appropriate choice and would have been actually a sound basis for discipline.

    Too many agencies favor such tools not because they a sound and appropriate choice, but because the command/executive staff and civilian officials simply will not accept that lethal force is a legitimate means addressing someone violent. American LE uses lethal force in MAYBE 5% of the events in which it could (and by implication should) be used, Cops successfully (and often unwisely) deescalate cases far more often than is perceived; the entire discourse is completely wrong.

    Seattle is an especially good (bad?) example, as they are stuck with a consent decree that has little if any basis in law or fact, driven by deliberate misconduct by DOJ (anyone who trusts DOJ/OCR to tell the truth or display integrity about law enforcement is a fool) and approved by a CIty Council that hates not just cops, but the rule of law, and advised by a city attorney who is … at least as bad. All of the I5 corridor from Blaine to San Diego is a morass of stupidity, and I dislike the majority of my contact with the dullards from there.

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