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  1. #1
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    Police seek options to lethal force

    Police seek options to lethal force


    Monday, June 18, 2007


    By LEO STRUPCZEWSKI and JASON LAUGHLIN
    Courier-Post Staff

    WILLINGBORO
    When Willingboro police faced a troubled teenager armed with two pairs of scissors June 7, they took the only action they're allowed when threatened: shoot to kill, officials said.

    Now, with the teenager in a hospital, the incident has led to questions and frustration that gunfire remains the police's only alternative.

    "Allowing only lethal force with those who do not fit the mold of what we consider normal is horrific," said Steven Morse, director of Garfield Park Academy, a school for emotionally and behaviorally troubled students the teenager attended.

    The shooting happened on school grounds.

    Less than lethal weapon systems were legalized for New Jersey police more than a year and a half ago, yet systems that could incapacitate an opponent while leaving the person alive have yet to reach the hands of the state's officers.

    "It's way too slow, and how many lost lives as a result of it?" asked Sen. Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, who in January 2006 as acting governor signed a bill that opened the door for police to carry Tasers, projectile bean bags and other alternatives to hand guns.

    Police departments are eager to get the devices that might allow them to avoid their guns, something law enforcement describes as traumatic for the officer who pulls the trigger.

    "If it's a tool, you want to see it put in place," Medford Police Chief James Kehoe said. "If they're conducting a study and they don't have the facts, I can understand that. But if they have all the facts, it's frustrating."

    The delay comes because the Attorney General's Office must review and approve less-than-lethal weapons for police use. The review has been ongoing since Codey signed the law.

    "I didn't think it would take long," he said.

    The Attorney General's Office gave little information on what the review process involved.

    "We are proceeding with the review and we will make a determination," spokesman Peter Aseltine said. "We are looking at the full range of options and we want to do it carefully and make an appropriate determination."

    Aseltine declined to discuss the criteria being used to analyze the systems.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey is falling behind most other states in the nation, which already allow officers alternatives to guns, said Memphis police Maj. Sam Cochran, a national law enforcement expert. He is assisting Camden County police to develop more productive ways to address situations involving people with mental illness.

    "If less than lethal saves one life, what's that worth?" Cochran said. "Put a price on that. Then we should talk about whether you should have this."

    And Cochran suggested the delay in approving the systems could open police up to lawsuits. He noted if the systems exist, are legal but aren't being used, a plaintiff, possibly the family of a person killed by police, could claim the state neglected alternatives that might have allowed their relative to live.

    "It's part of the 21st century," Cochran said. "It's available. From a liability standpoint, departments could be addressing, "Why didn't you have this?' Is it reasonable in this day and age for a department not to have this equipment?"

    Local officers are interested in the systems, but warned that when an officer feels his life is threatened, he'll likely still go for his gun. Officials declined to speak specifically about the circumstances Sgt. William Smith faced in Willingboro when he twice shot twice the teenager holding the scissors.

    "Those less lethal options, they're for specific times to be used," Kehoe said. "If someone's coming at you with a knife and about to stab, that's lethal force. You're not going to try something (other than a gun). It doesn't work; you're at risk."

    Training is the key to teaching officers when it's appropriate to reach for something other than a gun, Cochran said.

    The latest local police shooting in Willingboro is being reviewed by the Attorney General's Office and Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, officials said.

    Sgt. Smith is on administrative leave pending the results of that investigation.

    Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office wouldn't say when the review of less-than-lethal weapons would be complete.

    "We are aware that there is a strong interest in reaching a determination on this," Aseltine said.

    Codey attributed the long review time in part to turnover in the Attorney General's Office. He felt that had left the work derailed.

    "If we get a new attorney general, that's one of the first things I'll talk to her about," Codey said. "What happened here? Somebody dropped the ball."

    Reach Jason Laughlin at (856) 486-2476 or jlaughlin@courierpostonline.co m


    http://www.courierpostonline.com/app...706180344/1006
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  2. #2
    countybear's Avatar
    countybear is offline BDRT - Baby Daddy Removal Team
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    How lethal would getting a pair of scissors jammed in your neck be, I wonder?

    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
    - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly.
    - Lovelace

    The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.

  3. #3
    Rhino's Avatar
    Rhino is offline Meat-eater & Fire-breather
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    When Willingboro police faced a troubled teenager armed with two pairs of scissors June 7, they took the only action they're allowed when threatened: shoot to kill, officials said.

    That's funny, I was trained to shoot to stop the threat.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking." -Gen. George S. Patton

 

 

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