Last week, a pickup driver who refused to stop for police came to a halt in a driveway near Troy, Mo. A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the driver and one of five passengers as the truck rolled backward, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. None of the people inside was armed. One of them said the driver had neglected to set the parking brake. Similar incidents have occurred from New England to Southern California in the past two years, often pitting street officers against the public and police department brass. Officials have increasingly blamed officers for such shootings and asked the rank-and-file to do whatever they can to avoid them. Usually that means learning to get out of the way if a driver tries to flee.
“We’re learning more and more about it, and the people getting shot and killed are not horrible people who deserve to die,” said criminologist Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina. “We’re seeing shots fired that didn’t need to be shot.” The cover of the current Police & Security News magazine asks: “Shooting at Moving Vehicles – Is It Time To Review Your Policy?” Police chiefs in Florida’s Palm Beach County decided are reviewing theirs after several incidents of officers shooting at fleeing drivers. “Maybe we are creating the hazard by putting ourselves in front of vehicles,” said Rick Lincoln, chief of Lantana, Fla., Police Department and president of the county’s association of chiefs. Most police agencies in the St. Louis area already prohibit shooting at moving vehicles, except when all other options have been attempted to no avail. A common theme among the incidents is that the officer believed that he was shooting to save his life, said Sgt. Craig Stapp, a Tempe, Az., police firearms training supervisor.