The fatal shooting of Providence, R.I., detective James Allen by a suspect has focused attention on the Providence Police Department’s procedures concerning the safety of officers who are questioning suspects, the Providence Journal reports. Police Chief Dean Esserman said he would begin reviewing the issues after tomorrow’s funeral for Allen, who was allegedly killed with his own gun by a suspect he was interviewing. Allen was alone in a conference room when Esteban Carpio, who was not handcuffed or restrained, got control of the detective’s gun and shot him.
Law-enforcement experts say there’s a great deal of gray area surrounding the questioning of someone like Carpio, who was not under arrest. “You walk a tightrope,” said Peter Van Dyke, director of police training at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety, which instructs police from around the world. A detective needs to protect himself, but he also wants to extract information from the suspect about the crime, Van Dyke said. “It tends to get people not to want to cooperate, if they are handcuffed.” The decision to be alone with a suspect is often up to an individual officer, said Michael Brady of the Department of Administration of Justice at Salve Regina University in Newport and a former Charlestown police chief. “This is a man who knew his job, he was exercising his discretion,” Brady said of Allen. “Clearly he didn’t feel threatened.”