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Friday, August 24, 2012

Did NYC Cops Violate Policy on Use of Deadly Force in Crowds?

UPDATE  Gunman in New York had illegal gun--bought easily in Florida but he was not legal to carry in New York.

I've been covering the NYC shootings here since about 10 am, with about nine innocent bystanders wounded, skeptical about the official police version of events (claiming there was a "shootout" when in reality the gunman did not fire his weapon at police) and the media reluctant to go with the facts.  See it all here.  But on Twitter I have been asking for someone, anyone, in the media to discuss the NYPD policy on using lethal force in, say, a crowded midtown NY street at rush hour.  Haven't seen anything yet, so here's a report from a few months back.  Despite it all, it still seems cops are advised not to fire if they think bystanders might get hurt.  Another take here.

The NYPD has quietly revised its Patrol Guide to add a clause that gives officers more leeway in the use of deadly force, despite currently dealing with fallout from a police shooting that left an unarmed teen dead in the Bronx. The revision is based on a 2010 New York Court of Appeals ruling which stated that the decision to fire a gun should be left to an individual officer's discretion.

The ruling threw out a lawsuit by Tammy Johnson, who was hit by a stray bullet when police began shooting at an armed robber in Harlem. Johnson had her 18-month-old daughter with her at the time.  However, in that case, the court ruled that officers violated no NYPD guidelines. In response, NYPD has revised the Patrol Guide to reflect the court's decision. Officers are now instructed that they shouldn't fire their weapons if, "in their professional judgment," innocent bystanders run the risk of being hurt.

But since "professional judgment" is vaguely defined as "based not only upon experience as an individual but taking into account the knowledge, experience and training gained through employment as a police officer," the new policy actually gives cops more leeway if they choose to fire their guns.

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