The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) held a use-of-force training for local media last month in Tucson, Arizona, to educate non-law enforcement on Department of Justice policy guidelines for force.
James Balthazar, a senior ATF special agent, told KVOA “We want people to understand why officers react the way they do and legally what they’re allowed to do and what their use of force responsibilities and rights are.”
In the classroom, the media was informed about the Department of Justice policy guidelines on the use-of-force. This policy states that officers may use deadly force only when necessary. That is, when an officer has reasonable belief that a suspect poses an imminent danger of serious injury to themselves or someone else.
Often, officers have to make a judgment in a matter of seconds. They are taught to look for danger signs such as concealed hands, a fighting stance, or ignoring commands as an instance where it is reasonable to use force.
After the class, members of the media used a virtual simulation where they could apply what they learned to real-life scenarios.
In one scenario of a woman being robbed at an ATM, News 4 Tucson’s Mark Mingura played the role of both citizen and officer. Acting as a civilian, the burglar got a way and the woman lived. However, in the role of officer, the woman and the burglar, as well as the driver, did not survive after the confrontation with the police.
“The question that is to be asked is did the officer act reasonably? Not if they could have done something differently.” ATF Deputy Chief Paul Massock said.
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that reasonableness is not capable of precise definition. Therefore, officers must rely on their own judgment. In a dynamic situation, officers rely on their training and look out for danger signs to decide when to use it.