Police Shooting Cases Raise Questions About Training


The killing of a hairbrush-brandishing teenager in New York last week was another case of police officers’ reacting to what they erroneously feared was a weapon, reports the Associated Press. It has revived debate over the use of force, perceptions of threats, and police training. “We have cases like that all over the country where it can be a wallet, a cell phone, a can of Coca-Cola and officers have fired the weapon,” said Scott Greenwood of Cincinnati, who has handled police use-of-force cases for the American Civil Liberties Union. He says the cases “call into question the training departments are using to train officers to perceive and respond to threats.”

The New York Police Department says the officers who fired 20 shots at Khiel Coppin, 18, on Nov. 12 were justified in their use of force. The mentally ill teenager approached officers outside his mother’s home with a black object in his hand – the hairbrush – and repeatedly ignored orders to stop. The officers were responding to a 911 call in which Coppin could be heard in the background saying he had a gun. Last year, New York officers fired 50 bullets at three unarmed men in a car, killing Sean Bell on his wedding day and seriously wounding two friends. Three officers are scheduled for trial in February. New York police instructors say recruits are repeatedly cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and to try to take cover and assess a situation before opening fire. Once shooting starts, officers are trained to “shoot to stop” by firing at a target’s “center mass.”


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