Heavy scrutiny surrounding officer-involved shootings has some law enforcement leaders rethinking firing at moving cars, reports NPR. One of those agencies is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which recently changed its policy. KPCC in Pasadena, which has been tracking the use of force by sheriff’s deputies, found almost every driver or passenger shot by deputies was unarmed. Such cases raise tactical questions: Should officers shoot a person if they’re afraid of being run over, or should they just get out of the way? The LAPD has cracked down on the practice and virtually eliminated shooting at moving cars with unarmed occupants from 2010 through 2014. But LA County sheriff deputies shot an unarmed passenger or driver in a car at least eight times during the same five-year period because they said they feared being run over.
In most cases, shooting at a moving vehicle doesn’t make a lot of sense, says Todd Rogers, an assistant L.A. sheriff. “You are not going to stop the vehicle. It is still going to be moving forward and everything in its path is going to get hit,” Rogers says. “We are probably shooting at moving vehicles too much, because it is not an effective tactic, not because deputies aren’t legally justified in doing so.” The sheriff’s department says it is now training deputies that shooting at cars is dangerous. Its updated policy states: “Firearms shall not be discharged at a stationary or moving vehicle, the occupants of a vehicle, or the tires of a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening the Department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle.” In other words, unless another weapon is present, stop shooting into cars.