Recently, a prosecutor in Madison, Wisconsin announced that no charges would be filed against an officer who shot a suspect, identified as bi-racial, following investigation by not only the Madison Police Department, but the DA’s Office and DOJ. Critics will claim the shooting was excessive force. Supporters claim the officer was justified in his use of force. Truth is, the officer had no choice and maybe that is the problem.
On the night of March 6th, Officer Matt Kenny was working solo and responded to a call for a disturbance. Witnesses reported the suspect, Tony Robinson, had assaulted several civilians. Clearly, Robinson was acting inappropriately and posed a risk to the public and Kenny had a duty to act before any additional citizens were victimized.
When Kenny arrived, he found the front door open and heard what sounded like an assault occurring upstairs. As Kenny climbed the stairs towards an unknown danger involving a violent suspect, he drew his sidearm – standard procedure in a case of this nature. After announcing himself, Kenny reported that Robinson appeared at the top of the stairs and quickly punched the officer in the head. Kenny was now trapped in a stairwell and being physically assaulted; he feared he may be pushed down the steps or otherwise incapacitated, after which he feared Robinson would take his service weapon and kill him, bystanders or both.
Ultimately, Officer Kenny felt he had no choice in defending himself other than the duty weapon he had at his side. The confined space limited his potential ability to use his baton, and his OC spray posed the potential of disabling them both. Officer Kenny shot Robinson, who was pronounced dead by responding paramedics.
Regardless of what evidence the department, DA and DOJ used to justify the shooting, the truth is Officer Kenny had no other choice – because he was not provided with one. Sidearm, taser, baton and OC spray are commonplace on every patrol officer’s duty belt. Each has a specific place in the Use of Force Continuum and every officer receives advanced training is the use of each of these choices. Many citizens think that an officer should go toe to toe with a suspect prior to resorting to the use of any of the other weapons available to them. Officers argue that doing this will place officers at unnecessary risk. So who is correct?
In this instance I think that both parties are correct, although not necessarily for the reasons they believe. Yes, there are times that officers should go “hands on” prior to resorting to any weapon, and sometimes that means more than wrist locks or leg strikes – sometimes it means going a few rounds. Yes, going a few rounds with a suspect may place an officer at greater risk of injury, but every reaction has risk; the key is determining which risk is acceptable. The problem which neither side recognizes is that most officers do not have the knowledge or skill necessary to effectively engage in a full blown fight. This means that for these officers, going “hands on” is not an option and may mean it is not a viable option.
There was a time when officers were taught a wide array of fighting skills, including boxing and martial arts. Over time, departments phased out this type of training, many replacing it with “self-defense training,’ which is really designed to ward off an attack until a suspect surrenders or the officer accesses one of his or her weapons. It is time for departments to return to training in actual fighting skills, skills which allow an officer to take the fight to a suspect rather than simply defend themselves. No, this will not prevent every escalation in force. No, it will not prevent officers from being forced to shoot suspects. Yes, it will provide a better early option and may prevent the lone officer from being out gunned by a suspect who does know that their hands are also a weapon.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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