Possible changes to Missouri's policy on use of force

3 years 1 week 3 days ago Tuesday, May 12 2015 May 12, 2015 Tuesday, May 12, 2015 7:36:00 PM CDT May 12, 2015 in News
By: Lila Gross, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - House lawmakers have until Friday May 15 to vote on a bill which would only allow police to use deadly force if an officer believes a suspect has attempted a violent felony.

Current Missouri law justifies deadly force when an officer believes a suspect has attempted a felony, is escaping with a deadly weapon or poses a serious threat to others.

MU Professor Wayne Anderson said he believes the hot topic of police brutality is because of decades worth of alleged mistreatment.

"It is the result of a tremendous build up in terms of were not being treated fair," Anderson said. "Everybody is hostel, we can trust the cops, we can't trust the government and boom suddenly all sense is lost and you get this tremendous reaction."

Incidents across the country like in New York, Washington, Baltimore and Ferguson have brought up the question of what is an appropriate amount of force.

Anderson said he does, however, understand the dangers police officers face in violent situations.

"They're in a situation where there is a lot of anger at them," Anderson said. "And its very hard in these situations to judge how much danger you're in. I can see where a certain number of people are going to be shot when they shouldn't be shot."

Officers have several verbal and physical tactics, but every situation is different.

Columbia Police Department Training Officer Jason Baillargeon said when an individual cannot be contained police are forced to use more extreme tactics, including using weapons.

"We teach our officers to shoot center of mass," Baillargeon said. "Why? Because it is the largest part of an individuals torso that we can focus on."

Baillargeon adds that limbs move a lot, so the chance to miss is greater if they aim for a small part of the body.

Anderson said he's had some gun simulation training, and agreed with Baillargeon.

"We aren't that accurate with a gun," Anderson said. "When you're nervous, and you're active and the other person is moving the only way you're going to stop them for sure is you shoot for the main body."

Baillargeon said the term "excessive force" often has a bad connotation associated with it.

"We do not believe in excessive force," Baillargeon said. "We do not believe that there is any, we do not believe that we should be using more force than is necessary to get somebody under control."

Officer Baillargeon says a better way to describe police action against a suspect is called "response to resistance."

The Columbia Police Department's Policy 300 is called "Response to Resistance," and outlines the regulations a police officer must follow for using any amount of force against a suspect.

Police officers train for these situations by conducting simulations and scenarios.

Baillargeon said some scenarios include talking in conversation, observing another officer or actually putting them through a situation with role players.

Officers are then evaluated on how they would respond during an intense encounter with a suspect.

"Can they make a quick decision?" Baillargeon said. "Can they make a decision? That's what were wanting them to do."

Baillargeon said he recognizes his officers will make mistakes, and said that is okay. He said it is a continual learning process.

 He said Columbia Police Department requires continual in-service training every year to ensure officers maintain their tactical skills.

"If we can get the community and the police department on the same page to solve problems," Baillargeon said. "We can go a long way."

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