The killing of a 14-year-old boy by a Baltimore police officer is reviving the controversial issue of when is the right time to use deadly force to stop aggressive suspects, says the Baltimore Sun. The attorney for Kevin Cooper’s family maintains that that the boy’s behavior did not warrant such a violent reaction. Experts who train officers cautioned that these kinds of volatile domestic situations require split-second decisions by officers worried about the safety of bystanders as well as their own. Options like blinding Mace, disabling batons, and Taser stun guns can be employed effectively to force many suspects into compliance.
Former police commanders and authorities in tactical procedures say the public should not be lulled into thinking that every suspect can and should be subdued by those less-than-lethal methods. “Anybody could easily say that the officer should have backed away, but was the individual in such a dangerous state that he was he going to hurt his mother?” said retired Maj. Gary D’Addario, a former Baltimore homicide shift commander. Baltimore police defended the shooting as justified, saying the boy had hit the officer and threatened him with a jagged broken broom handle. At the time of the shooting, the officer was alone with the family. “There are many factors involved. But sometimes calling for backup or having more officers at the scene can help end a situation without using lethal force,” said Charles Joe Key, a former Baltimore police lieutenant who helped write the department’s guidelines for using force.