M A R 2 0 1 4 A P R

Exploring Potentially Lethal Law Enforcement Errors

James J. Sheets

F aced with information overload, I’ve tried to distill common errors of- ficers have made and are still making to this day. The following errors aren’t new and most of us were warned about these errors when we were in the police academy. However, for one reason or another, the lessons have faded with time and research has shown lethal assaults may result with a temporary lapse of judgment. Lack of deploying appropriate use of force Appropriate use of force is critical to the safety of the officer and ending a violent assault. One study, In the Line of Fire , noted officers, when initially assaulted, felt it was appropriate to wrestle or tussle with an offender but had difficulty determining when they were actually fighting for their lives. Officers further described trying to recall their departments’ approved policy on using deadly force prior to deploying deadly force. In some instances, the recall was too late. Law enforcement agencies should develop clearly articulated deadly force policies and officers should be tested for their recall of these policies. Improper searches Complete searches are a bedrock principle in the policing profes- sion, yet officers are still critically assaulted because they fail to find weap- ons secreted on a person. In the Line of Fire explains officers assaulted with a hidden weapon reported a reluctance to search offenders who ap-

As a new Officer Safety Awareness Training Instruc- tor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program , I have been poring through 20 years of research, including the ground-breaking studies: Killed in the Line of Duty (1992), In the Line of Fire (1997), and Violent Encounters (2006). Under the watchful eyes of my predecessors, the vault doors have opened and I have been granted access to volumes of research materials which were used to develop the preceding studies.

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