Command Sequence in Police Encounters: Searching for a Linguistic Fingerprint

Law Enforcement Executive Forum

The Law Enforcement Executive Forum

Authors: Julie Vandermay, Daniel Houlihan, Liesa A. Klein, William J. Lewinski, Jeffrey Buchanan

A law enforcement officer can use deadly force with a firearm in a variety of circumstances. However, once that officer has used deadly force, the microscope of the investigators, his or her department, the courts, and society will focus on the circumstances of the shooting and the officer’s response(s) to those circumstances. Inherent within this investigation will be a close scrutiny on two phases of the shooting. First, the officer’s decision and/or reaction to start shooting and then the officer’s decision and/or reaction to stop shooting. For understandable reasons, in lethal force encounters, the officer’s primary focus is usually on surviving threats to his or her life, and most of the officer’s preparation and training has focused on the officer’s responses that would most likely guarantee that survival. Very little attention if any is focused on immediately stopping shooting when the lethal threat changes—even if stopping immediately was humanly possible.

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