Online Exclusive

Realities of Using Deadly Force

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

                                                                        ~George Orwell

Deadly force is a topic that, like it or not, influences the way cops do their job. Sometimes  cops allows themselves to be hamstrung by their department’s deadly force policy, worrying more about the legal implications should they violate it, rather than the life-threatening issues they face. As society becomes more violent, coinciding with the downward spiral of its morals and ethics, an increasing number of LE officers are being called upon to use their firearm in defense of themselves and others.

Therefore, it seems logical that the use of deadly force should have a one size fits all paradigm. Granted, there are many variables involved in each incident, and it seems impossible to give an officer an exact template to follow. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court made it clear in Terry v. Ohio in 1968 that, “. . . It would be unreasonable to require that police officers take unnecessary risks in the performance of their duties.”

That decision is a powerful case in favor of cops who may have second thoughts about using their weapon. Terry v. Ohio demonstrates deference to the legitimate safety concerns of LE officers and the compelling interests of society in protecting those who are charged with enforcing its laws.

Deadly force, which can be described as, a force that creates a significant risk of death, consists of a panoply of ingredients: laws, weapons, training, physiological imperatives, tactics, wound ballistics, and more. Swearing an oath to protect society is not as simple as pinning on a badge and strapping on a gun. The use of deadly force is a tool that is very much alive. It can become a monster that devours everyone associated with it. Although it results in something tangible, a death, the path to that result is very complex. Thus, the issue is one that is ever evolving due to challenges from courts and individuals, tactics and weapons, even those weapons created for the sole purpose of being non-deadly.

To help simplify the myriad issues surrounding deadly force, Urey W. Patrick and John C. Hall have written a gem of a book encompassing the important points each LE officer should know. The book is titled: IN DEFENSE OF SELF AND OTHERS . . . Issues, Facts & Fallacies—The Realities of Law Enforcement’s Use of Deadly Force.  Considered by many to be an authoritative tome, it gives the reader a comprehensive overview of the complexity and responsibility of the armed LE officer and citizen. Author Tom Clancy wrote the following in his Foreword to the first edition: “This book is a textbook, mostly aimed at police officers, the attorneys who defend them in court, students of law enforcement, and its many badly informed critics. For that purpose it is admirably clear and easy to understand.”

The book’s authors are retired FBI agents. Urey Patrick is a Princeton graduate, former naval officer, and chief firearms instructor at the FBI Academy. John Hall is a member of the bar, a skilled investigator and weapons expert, and Former Firearms Unit Chief at the FBI. John is considered by many as the authority on deadly force law and was the impetus for the complete revision of federal deadly force policies.

Lest you think this book is a tedious tome solely about the Constitutional law, let me disabuse you of that notion. Some of the topics covered:

  • Immediate threats
  • Preventing escape
  • Wound ballistics
  • Fallacies of popular shooting incident analyses
  • Training vs. Qualification
  • Tactical factors and misconceptions
  • Suicide by cop
  • And more . . .

If you’ve ever wished you had the ability, as well as a reference with which to cogently engage in a discourse on the subject of deadly force, In Defense of Self and Others, gives you that ability. The book illustrates why officers are always behind the power curve responding to the actions of others, explaining how and why action beats reaction.

Additionally, a thorough discussion of wound ballistics demonstrates why officers have no reliable means of instantaneously stopping a perceived threat.

I’ve long known both authors and recognized not only their complete understanding of deadly force and its encompassing issues, but their unique ability to educate others on the topic. This book belongs on every LE officer’s bookshelf or in their locker, and should be required reading for every department legal advisor. The second edition has been updated to address the legal and practical issues relating to the use of non-deadly force.

Stay Safe, Brothers and Sisters!

Referenced book online: In Defense of Self and Others


Web Links: