“Weapons confusion” still happen
- Why does “weapons confusion” still happen?
- Should officers be held liable for their actions in situations of unintentional shootings with their handgun that result in serious injury or death? Explain.
- Do you feel that age, gender, or a persons time on the job play a factor is these situations?
- What can police agencies do to lower the probability of weapons confusion from occurring? Explain in detail.
Robert Bates, the volunteer sheriff’s deputy who killed an unarmed suspect in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 2, says he accidentally fired his handgun when he meant to deploy his stun gun. Bates plead “not guilty” to second-degree manslaughter charges at a court hearing Tuesday. He apologized for killing Eric Harris last week but described his deadly mistake as a common problem in law enforcement, saying: “This has happened a number of times around the country. … You must believe me, it can happen to anyone.” Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in Harris’ death.
Some questions and answers about officers who mistakenly fire guns when intending to use stun guns to incapacitate, not kill, suspects.
Experts agree this is a real but very rare occurrence that probably happens less than once a year nationwide. A 2012 article published in the monthly law journal of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement documented nine cases in which officers shot suspects with handguns when they said they meant to fire stun guns dating back to 2001. The list included three instances in California and one each in Minnesota, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Kentucky and Canada. For perspective, Taser International says its stun guns have been deployed more than 2.7 million times in the field.
The way officers carry their weapons, how officers are trained and the stress of dangerous, chaotic situations have been cited. To avoid confusion, officers typically carry their stun guns on their weak sides, away from handguns that are carried on the side of their strong arms. A right-handed officer, for instance, would carry his handgun on his right and his stun gun on his left. In many of the documented cases of confusion, however, the two weapons were holstered near each other on the officers’ strong side.
Why does “weapons confusion” still happen?
There are a number of reasons why weapons confusion still happens. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Stress: Police officers often work in high-stress situations, which can make it difficult to think clearly and make sound decisions. This can lead to mistakes, such as accidentally drawing the wrong weapon.
- Lack of training: Not all police officers receive adequate training on how to use their weapons safely and effectively. This can increase the risk of weapons confusion.