This story is fast becoming a big deal. A man was shot by police on his wedding day in New York City.
I have no idea whether or not the shooting was justified. Unlike Mayor Bloomberg, I’m going to wait until more facts come out. It’s not at all clear why the police thought he presented a threat, or whether there is any racial aspect at all to the incident.
What I will say, though, is that this concern over 50 bullets fired seems unique to New York. For non-New York police, the decision is normally between shooting and not shooting, not between shooting one or 100 times. The same argument came up over Amadou Diallo, faced with about 40 bullets.
What really surprises me is that the police commissioner has joined in the accusation:
“Officers are trained to shoot no more than three bullets before pausing to reassess the situation, Mr. Kelly said in his most detailed assessment of the shooting yet. Department policy also largely prohibits officers from firing at vehicles, even when they are being used as weapons.”
I’ve never heard of this policy before — indeed, several trained (non-NY) police officers have said the opposite in my presence, in casual conversations and classroom presentations — and I can’t find anything about it.
Once most police shoot, they aim to stop a perceived threat, and they don’t take their fingers off the trigger until the suspect is no longer a potential problem. Up close it’s two to the chest, one to the head. From further away, they aim for the central body mass until it goes down.
Heck, just watching the occasional shootout on police video TV shows that most officers don’t pause at the three-shot mark. If someone is armed and shooting at an officer (the NY man was not), that kind of hesitation could get the cop killed.
Robert VerBruggen blogs at http://robertsrationale.blogspot.com.