Apr 112004
Authors: Collegian Editorial Staff


Shandra Jordan

Colleen Buhrer

Kyle Endres

When police officers are faced with someone holding a weapon –

be it a gun, knife or a potentially threatening household item –

the split-second decision they must make puts them in an unenviable


On the one hand, surely they don’t want to kill or injure an

innocent person. On the other hand, however, the natural reaction

must be one of fear for their own lives and the lives of other

officers and civilians around them.

And the problem is, it’s almost impossible to know what the

right choice would have been. If they don’t shoot and the alleged

criminal lives but an officer gets hurt or killed, it’s hard to say

that was the best choice. But if they do shoot and the alleged

criminal gets hurt or killed, it is hard to be sure what would have

happened. Maybe nothing, maybe something worse.

In Friday’s shooting (see today’s front page story) the officers

shot a BB gun-wielding man in the leg after he threatened to kill

himself or his mother and threatened the officers. Right now, it

seems like this was the best choice, although that position may

look different from another angle.

Other times, like with the shooting of Paul Childs by officer

James Turney in Denver last summer, it doesn’t necessarily seem

like the right decision was made. In that case, Turney shot and

killed 15-year-old Childs as the mentally handicapped teen wielded

a knife at his home. The case has prompted criticism from community

leaders that police used excessive force.

The challenge to the community and the police departments is to

find a system of training and support that will help officers make

the best possible decision in a situation as well as a system that

allows shootings to be investigated without destroying officers’


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