The Los Angeles Police Commission plans to adopt a major shift in the way it judges police shootings, tying an officer’s decision to pull the trigger to his actions in the moments leading up to the incident, reports the Los Angeles Times. The rule change, which will be taken up today, would settle years of debate over whether the commission can determine that a shooting violated department policy if the officer created a situation in which deadly force was necessary. Until now, the panel has focused on the narrow question of whether an officer faced a deadly threat at the moment he opened fire. “This is one of the most significant policy decisions we’ve made in my seven years on the commission,” Robert Saltzman said.
Although only a few words would be added to existing policy, “the clarification is significant. Some have interpreted our current policy to suggest the commission should ignore all the officer’s pre-force activity, no matter how relevant those earlier actions are,” he said. The proposal was submitted by the commission’s inspector general, who reviews officer shootings. For decades, the commission has followed a multi-step process. Instead of making a single decision on whether the officer was right to fire, it divides incidents into separate parts. In most cases, officers are cleared of wrongdoing. When the commission does find that an officer made mistakes early on in an encounter, it is usually clear that those missteps did not lead to the officer’s decision to use deadly force.