Experts Split On Wilson’s Actions In Ferguson; Why Not A Taser?


To many experts, Ferguson, Mo., officer Darren Wilson's actions in the confrontation with Michael Brown, as he described them to the grand jury, were within the bounds of standard police protocol, reports the New York Times Wilson testified that the two struggled over his service weapon while he was in his police vehicle, and that after a brief chase, he fired the fatal shots at Brown because the teenager was coming toward him in a threatening way. Some law enforcement experts challenged Wilson's assessment that nothing could have been done to change the deadly course of his confrontation with Brown. From the time Wilson first encountered Brown walking with a friend in the middle of the street to the point the teen lay dead on the pavement, there were several opportunities to de-escalate the event, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police officer.

O'Donnell pointed to the initial moments of the confrontation, when the officer and Brown are said to have struggled through the open window of the officer's police cruiser. “There certainly wouldn't be a prohibition of him driving a little further along and regrouping, calling for help and thinking about nonlethal weaponry,” O'Donnell said. “Just because you're a police officer doesn't mean you have to go into a situation headfirst.” Wilson contends that he was caught up in a rapidly escalating confrontation that started as a routine police stop and quickly spun out of control. Brown, he said, pinned him in his cruiser, holding the door shut while punching him in the face. He said he considered an array of responses, including using pepper spray or his baton, but found them all lacking. Former Boston police commissioner Edward Davis said, “There has been a significant change in the use of force by police in the 35 years I've been in the business — new tools like Tasers and really effective pepper sprays. When you look at the whole way this situation transpired, it's disappointing to see someone not use those intermediate tools available.”

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