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Damned if They Don't?

By Kris Royer Henninger · April 1st, 1999 · Burning Questions
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The March 19 fatal shooting of Michael Carpenter by Cincinnati police officers has some citizens calling for a Justice Department investigation, while the media is characterizing the shooting as another Pharon Crosby or Lorenzo Collins case.

Officers Brent McCurley and Michael B. Miller II shot Carpenter after they said he dragged one officer with his car and tried to run them over during a traffic stop.

Both the 1995 arrest of Crosby and the 1997 police shooting death of Collins resulted in accusations of police brutality and racism as well as calls for an array of investigations of the police.

Why is the police division not reminding the public of procedures -- in use by police nationwide -- that outline when an officer is to use force?

Ted Schoch, police academy training commander, said he could not comment on what is being presented to the public because all the facts were not in on the case.

But, he said, "There are a number of situations where an officer would be able to use force, even deadly force."

Is an officer being dragged by a car an instance that calls for the use of deadly force?

Schoch said that if an officer felt that his or her life, or the life of the officer's partner, were in danger, the officer would be justified in using force.

"If you look back at other cases, we do consider an automobile a weapon," he said.

Does this shooting mirror the Crosby and Collins cases, or is that just a characterization by the media?

"The officers did what they did (in all three cases) because they were in fear of their lives," he said.

But, he said, just because there were some similarities in all three cases, including that the suspects were black, it cannot be said that the cases mirrored one another.

Would the fact that one officer is back on the job, and the other is cleared to do so when his injury from the incident is healed, reflect that they followed procedures outlined for use of force?

"I would think so," he said. "They're looking at procedures now."

Schoch said that all officers involved in such incidents are required to be evaluated by a police psychologist to make sure they are in the correct state of mind for returning to work.

Both McCurley and Miller were cleared by the psychologist and so far have not been found to have done anything wrong in the shooting incident, Schoch said.

"We have no reason to say that the officers shouldn't be working," he said.

Some citizens are calling for a U.S. Justice Department investigation, as they did in the Lorenzo Collins case. What was the outcome of that investigation?

"The investigation showed that the officers acted appropriately," he said.

Schoch added that all of the other investigations in the Collins incident also showed that the officers acted appropriately.

Does Schoch's having told other reporters that the scenario involved in the latest shooting would be used as a training tool suggest the officers acted incorrectly?

"No," Schoch said.

He said that trainers use both local cases and incidents from other cities to highlight situations that could happen and teach officers techniques to deal with those situations.

"Unfortunately, you don't have to do something wrong to get hurt," he said.

Does it seem that the public simply would like police to stop approaching suspects for reasons like expired license plates and to simply stop getting into these altercations?

"I don't think that's the case," he said.

The public expects police to take actions necessary, within legal and justifiable boundaries, to enforce the law, he said. That, he said, includes making traffic stops.

How would it change the role of police officers if they did stop?

"If they didn't do them, we wouldn't think they were doing their job," he said.

 
 
 
 

 

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