Sunday, September 1, 2013

Shooting Automobiles

One of the outcomes from the Cleveland police car chase/shoot-out on Nov 29 2012 is a change in police policy.  Chief Michael McGrath said (Aug 30 2013) that Cleveland officers “will be prohibited from firing from or at a vehicle unless deadly force is being used against the police officer or another person present by means other than the vehicle itself.”  My emphasis.

The chief says this has nothing to do with the above mentioned incident where dozens of police officers chased down two suspects and fired 137 rounds into their vehicle following a 25-minute chase.  Far be it from me to say the chief is lying, but I am reminded of the Progressive Insurance commercial that ends with the line “No mas pantalones!”

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer retorted with
"If you have a mother and child out there and a vehicle is being used as deadly force, are we not supposed to take action?  A vehicle can be used as deadly force, and we should be able to use deadly force to stop a vehicle.”  That’s the other side of the story.

Those of us who are civilians have a significant small zero chance of being involved with a car chase and shoot-out.  We are more likely to be involved with someone actively trying to run us over.  In many cases our best response is to get out of the way.  Sometimes that isn’t an option.  What’s our next best response?

I know a retired police officer who worked out of the Hubbard Street station in downtown Chicago.  He tells of needing to stop a car involved with a robbery downtown.  The car was attempting to run him over or past him (it was in the early 1960s and details are bit smudged).  The officer told me he tried to figure out where the car's distributor cap was inside the engine compartment and shoot it.  He missed and had to get out of the way.  The car got stopped a block later by traffic and the officer on that corner arrested the driver.

The interesting thing is my storyteller felt comfortable discharging his weapon into the car, what we would consider an act of lethal force, but he didn’t feel the situation warranted using deadly force because he didn’t shoot the driver.

I’m not saying he’s wrong in these actions, just that we would see them in a different light today. 

I’m also reminded of what one of my trainers told me.  “No handgun or rifle has sufficient power to stop a moving car.  You need to shoot the driver and then get out of the way.”  It’s a lesson the military has seen many times in the sandbox.  A moving vehicle has too much energy to be stopped by a round (or eight) from any small arms.

the smooth wall of the alley and no cover make this a funnel of death
Unless Mr.  Shadow is Spiderman, he has no way to avoid the oncoming car.

So, be tactical.  Avoid tight, confining areas (Funnels of Death) where you have no chance of taking cover or retreating to a safer location.  If I need to confront someone stealing, my car I’ll do it towards the front of the driveway where I have room to maneuver and can avoid the vehicle and not the tight confines of house/driveway/house urban environment.  And if I decide I must use deadly force, I will shoot the driver and not the engine block or tires  And I still need to get out of the way!

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