Split Second, Life or Death Decisions

I took the time to read all 587 cases of police involved (or caused) deaths for 2016 listed on  The Counted website.  Old, retired people have nothing but time.  It’s amazing how many people were shot and killed by police because they just had a gun in their hand or made the motions of reaching for a gun. You would think any well-trained police officer would have enough time to react with deadly force if the criminal actually pulled a gun from their pocket or pointed it at them.  Not true.

A recent study by Dr. J. Pete Blair on reaction time for police to engage a threat determined that an officer may have less than half a second to make the decision to fire and engage.  This study determined if the offender suddenly points his gun in your direction, you are highly unlikely to get a shot off to defend yourself before he shoots.

In the best case scenario (for the officer), he is pointing his gun at the bad guy who has a gun in his hand at his side, pointing it at the ground. The bad guy can raise his gun and fire in the same amount of time it takes the officer to realize what’s going on and fire.  Even though the officer already has his gun aimed at the criminal with his finger on the trigger, the bad guy almost always is able to get a shot off resulting in two fatalities.

The study used Criminal Justice students as the bad guys. The good guys were all experienced SWAT officers. Both were armed with paintball type marking guns. The scenario was the good guy would encounter a bad guy with a gun in hand, pointed at the ground.  The encounters took place in a room at a distance of ten feet.   As expected, the good guy would immediately aim his gun at the suspect with demands to drop the gun. The suspect was given instructions to, at a time of their own choosing, raise their gun and fire.

How long did it take? A frame by frame evaluation of the video showed the average time for a subject to raise his gun and fire was 0.38 seconds. The average time for an officer to fire, with his gun already pointed at the subject with his finger on the trigger, was 0.39 seconds. A statistical dead heat. Both people end up being shot.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear about an officer shooting an unarmed person who doesn’t follow police direction and reaches for something. If nothing else, at least wait for the facts of the investigation to come out.

The study does not support automatically shooting everyone with a gun or suspects who does not comply with commands. Armed encounters vary. Officer must consider all circumstances of the situation.

I’m not saying that all police shootings are justified. There are some “bad shoots” and the facts will bear this out. With over 600,000 law enforcement officers in the country, you are going to have some bad cops, some poorly trained deputies or just bigoted or racist individuals that became cops. But saying all cops are guilty based on the actions of one cop is just as wrong as saying all Muslims are terrorist based on the actions of one Muslim in a Florida nightclub.

Do we want to put the same rule of engagement on our police offices as we do our military? That they cannot shoot until fired upon.  If so, we better come up with a Robo Cop armored uniform or else nobody is going to want to work in law enforcement.  I wouldn’t. Would you?


For some reason the website won’t let me insert an active link so if you want to read the original article about study, you will have to cut and paste:




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