The New York City Police Department was faced with a tragedy recently. An off-duty police office, chasing an individual he had witnessed attempting to break into his car, was shot and killed by a fellow police officer. The off-duty officer, Omar J. Edwards, was chasing the suspect, gun in hand. The on-duty officer, witnessing an unknown man with a gun running, identified himself and told the as yet unidentified off-duty officer not to move. The off-duty officer, probably as an automatic reflex, turned towards the on-duty officer who, fearing for his life since a gun was now pointed in his direction, fired his weapon at the off-duty officer, killing him. A difficult, tense situation leading to a tragic result.
We are told that police officers train for this event both during the initial Police Academy training and in follow-up training courses. The officers are taught to overcome instinct and not to turn around despite an almost automatic reflex to do so, when confronted with a situation such as occurred in this case.
QUESTION: When police see a person with an object in their hand that they suspect may be a weapon, and they demand that person “STOP”, is it not natural to assume that a civilian will also have that same instinct to turn around?
What training, exactly, do police officers get to prevent the mistaken killing of civilians? We see special training given to police officers to avoid becoming the target of mistaken shootings. Is it not clear that civilians, without any training, are much more likely to be the victims of mistaken shootings since they receive no training whatsoever.
The life of every human being is precious, and it is essential that the training provided to police officers must be substantially improved to prevent ALL forms of mistaken shootings. Too often we have witnessed tragedies that, with proper and repeated training, could probably have avoided an enormous amount of suffering for all the people involved in these tragedies.
Posted by New York Injury Lawyer, Steve Orlow