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Can't You Just Wound The Suspect?

May 25, 2009

Well, that’s an interesting question and the answer in most cases is no, you can’t just wound the suspect. When you are shooting (using deadly force) the general idea is to totally incapacitate him or her to prevent them from harming anyone else. Total incapacitation ideally means that it is accomplished without the suspect dying. In the real world however, this doesn’t always happen.

Most police recruits learn to aim for the largest spot on the body, and that would be the chest. They are also told to fire at least twice to make sure the job is done correctly. The problem is when you shoot someone, no one knows where the bullets will end up or what kind of damage that they will do when they enter the suspect.

You also have no control over what the suspect is about to do prior to shooting and for all you know, they may turn and run just as you pull the trigger, or suddenly drop to the ground. That means the target you were aiming at becomes something else, with entirely different results that sometimes includes the death of the suspect.

The other factor involved here is that if you are going to use deadly force, the decision to do so will be based on your split second assessment of what options you have or don’t have. You will be thinking at the speed of light and the decision you reach will be virtually instantaneous. The problem with making a snap assessment may be that what you see is not what it appears to be. For instance, what appears to be a gun in the suspect’s hand may be a wrench instead.

Using deadly force is not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination, but second guessing yourself in tense, life and death situations is a guaranteed death sentence for you. It’s one of the most difficult decisions a cop ever has to make. Chances are that many of you will see service without ever having to draw and fire your weapon. One thing is for sure though, you’d best not think about being a cop if you can’t ever see taking a life.

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