Using Force

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A couple of weeks ago KKCO reporter Tim Ciesco approached us and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office about doing a news story on the issues surrounding officers’ “use of force.”  What he was looking for was “what officers evaluate when they consider using force” and what their options are.  I’m hoping what Tim came away with, which based on the story he aired I’m confident he did, was how quickly that evaluation process has to be done.  In a lot of incidents officers face, we’re talking seconds.

The buzz around the police department is that Tim did a good job of giving the public an idea of some of the things officers face when they respond to calls, especially when he had to try to explain a very complex issue in the amount of time he was allotted.  And given the newscast is only a half hour, we knew Tim couldn’t include every single piece of information we gave him that day.  In fact, we couldn’t even get to everything in this blog if we tried.  Think of it this way: new recruits at the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy go through approximately 175 hours of training on various use of force issues before they can even graduate.  At the GJPD, all police officers are required to complete monthly trainings on a number of topics, and use of force issues are included in about 40 hours of that training spread out through the year.

So here are some other tidbits of information most people don’t realize when they hear about an officer having to use force when dealing with an incident:

  • A 2008 FBI report indicated 58,792 officers were assaulted while on duty.
  • The FBI also reports 48 officers across the country were feloniously killed in 2009.  The FBI broke that number into some interesting statistics.
  • 941 of the assaults wre committed by an edged weapon, such as a knife.
  • According to a study  done in the late 90s conducted by Thomas Hontz and Ray Rheingans it took an average of 2 seconds for a person to cover a distance of 30 feet, while the average speed of an officer to access, draw, acquire the target, and fire was 2.06 seconds.  That means a person can be nearly 30 feet away and still have time to get to an officer before the officer has time to determine which weapon to use and deploy it.
  • According to the FBI “there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.”  That means even though a person has been shot in the heart, that person may still be able to come at you for up to 15 seconds.  Grab your watch and see how long it actually takes for 15 seconds to tick by.

    Cpl. Fisher gives Tim his duty belt.

That takes me back to the earlier comment that I’m pretty sure Tim has a good understanding of how quickly an incident can play out.  We used some of the above statistics and put him, as well as three of our officers with varying years of experience, through a realistic scenario.  Tim was given everything the officers have on their duty belt and was told to respond to do a welfare check on a man who was sitting in the park.  That’s very representative of the types of calls our officers receive.  What Tim and the officers didn’t know is the man was armed with a knife.  Tim’s story has a few video clips of how he and our officers handled the situation.  Here are some photos of the result of the knife attack on Tim (don’t worry, the red stuff is just lipstick we put on the fake knife so we could see where it struck him).

Tim was “cut” on his neck and arm. His vest had a “slash” across the chest.

The “cut” on Tim’s neck.

It should also be noted, although I don’t have photos to show you, that the three officers who went through this scenario with the exact same amount of information Tim had also received “cuts” from the knife, even though they fired their guns and likely “shot” the suspect.  That means had this been real, the suspect may or may not have been killed, but the officers still would likely have received injuries of various degrees in the process.  Just some food for thought.

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