Trained by Hollywood to expect that a single round is enough to fatally wound a threatening suspect, noncops may question OISs in which multiple shots were fired. Why did officers fire so many rounds? Why was the suspect shot after already falling to the ground? Why did some bullets hit him in the back?
For PIOs, administrators, police attorneys, and others needing answers for reporters, suspects relatives, law enforcement critics, or jurors a recent explanation by Advanced Force Science Specialist Jason Helfer may be helpful.
In a report appearing on the website of Lexipol, the public safety policy advisory organization, Helfer discusses in detail the powerful factors that impact the decisions of when to start and when to stop shooting during a life-threatening encounter.
It s understandable that civilians who read reports of officers firing multiple, sometimes dozens, of rounds at a suspect will question whether the officers used excessive force, writes Helfer, a deputy chief of internal affairs for a municipal department in New York state.
In truth, however, what some civilians and law enforcement critics perceive as an act of reckless disregard for life, or even intentional murder, is often merely the [inevitable] product of physiology.
He goes on to examine critical behavioral factors that are often beyond an officer’s control, including attentional capacity, perception and processing time, reaction time, mental and physical condition, and suspect movements.
Among other things, he describes Force Science experiments that measured the time required by officers to stop shooting once they experience a stop stimulus. Some officers were able to react seemingly instantaneously, resulting in no additional rounds, while others took up to 1.5 seconds to cease pulling the trigger, resulting in additional rounds being fired after an unmistakable signal to stop.
The article, Why So Many Shots Fired? Understanding Police Officer Reaction Time to Stop Shooting, can be accessed in full, free of charge, by clicking here.