I just finished reading the article “Shut up Don’t talk” composed by Perri McPhee, and want to say it was well thought out and thorough. I would like to add some additional insight. Having been in law enforcement since graduating in 1990, I have been involved in two officer shooting scenarios, not to mention being sued twice during my career.
All law enforcement officers are trained to respond to a variety of incidents, some of which require a split second decision in regards to life or death. During the academy and field training, officers should be constantly on alert and ready for any scenario. The days of an officer never removing their sidearm from their holster is gone.
When an officer engages in a stressful event, there is the obvious adrenaline dump, which eliminates fine motor skills and creates tunnel vision. Officers will tell others that the event may have taken minutes, when in fact, the incident unfolded in less than five seconds. Most close encounter deadly incidents happen within 7-10 feet and in 3-5 seconds. We, as citizens and law enforcement, should never Monday morning quarter back what an officer did or did not do. Citizens generally have no idea what the flight or fight scenarios are like. I will never second guess what an officer did, especially if I was not there.
With that said, the statements made by the officer were used against him. We are all taught not to say anything until we are represented by an attorney and have a union representative with us. Any time deadly force is used, the involved officer(s) should be removed from the scene, and a member trained in peer support should be there to provide the basic amenities. His/her family should be notified of the situation, as to let their loved ones know they will not be home for a while.
A basic part of the officers law enforcmeent career is the duty sidearm. Post incident, that firearm will be taken from the officer for testing and evidenciary reasons. It is crucial for the department administrator to re-arm that officer with a spare hand gun. I also caution my own officers not to make any statements to anyone, prior to meeting with an attorney. The officer will eventually have to talk about the incident with the investigative body, such as the State Police, Attorney General, and their own department. Post incident recovery is always critical as well. Involved members may exhibit a variety of symptoms months after the event. Members trained in Critical Incident Stress Management should monitor the officers, as well as meeting with an assigned department mental health professional, prior to returning to work.
In Maine, the Attorney General’s Office investigates all uses of deadly force and usually renders a decision within a month. That month can be one of the most gut wrenching times for the officer(s), and peer support is crucial during that time. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a wrongful death lawsuit pending as well. Usually, that will happen two or three years later. So, the event is relived over again for the involved parties and families.
I agree with Perri in regards to the issue of remaining quiet to safe guard the officer’s interests. Eventually, the officer(s) will have to speak about the incident to the investigating agencies. If there were mistakes made, then we will deal with them as they arise. By today’s standards, officers are being trained more throughly and are excelling the field of law enforcement.
Sgt. Thomas E. Garrepy Brunswick Police Department 28 Federal Street Brunswick, Maine