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Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Training

BART Verdict: Consider a Weak-Hand TASER Draw

Putting the TASER on an officer's "weak" side reduces the possibility of confusion during a dynamic use-of-force incident.

July 09, 2010  |  by Greg Meyer


Photo via Euro-police.noblogs.org.

I was the defense use-of-force expert on the case, and I have read the jury instructions.

I've tentatively concluded that the jury went with involuntary manslaughter on the basis that former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Officer Johannes Mehserle was engaged in a lawful act—the arrest of Oscar Grant III—and that he accidentally drew his handgun while intending to draw his TASER.

That being said, the jury found that he was criminally negligent in that effort in that he didn't reasonably follow policy or training. Let's analyze three key areas of my testimony that officers and trainers ought to consider:

First, a TASER is sometimes used in imminent deadly force scenarios.  Many lives have been saved, but sometimes officers are hurt in the process. It is important to do this as safely as possible.

Second, there have been six prior weapon-confusion cases in the past nine years where an officer shot someone while intending to use his or her TASER.

And third, it is essential that trainers put officers through their paces with training that is dynamic, stress-inducing, and requires officers to make quick force-options decisions. The training must truly test the officer's ability to be ready for stressful encounters on the street.

As a common thread of all six weapon-confusion cases, the officer's strong hand was involved. Therefore, consider requiring an officer's TASER to be in weak-side holsters requring a weak-hand draw to reduce the possibility of another tragic case. Dr. Bill Lewinski (Force Science Research Center) and I have discussed this issue, and we believe that it would signfiicantly reduce the risk of having a weapon-confusion incident.

Finally, several media outlets are reporting that the jury also found that the California law involving the use of a gun during the commission of a crime (the so-called "gun enhancement") applied in this case. This one is a head-scratcher, because according to my reading of the jury instructions on that issue he would have had to intentionally use the firearm. That seems contrary to the involuntary manslaughter verdict.

We'll see how the judge handles all of this at sentencing on Aug. 6. Regardless of the outcome, this is a tragic case with no winners.

Greg Meyer retired as a captain from the LAPD. A consultant and expert witness on use-of-force issues, he is a member of both the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center and the POLICE Advisory Board and serves as chairman of the Los Angeles Police Historical Society.

Tags: BART Shooting, Less-Lethal Force, TASER


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

ROB ROY @ 7/9/2010 6:12 PM

Everyone seems to forget that if it wasn't for Oscar Grant III's action's this would not have happened. I can't wait till I can retire or get my business started so I won't have the public I'am sworn to protect turn on me like a Rabid Animal.

dbkraemer @ 7/9/2010 9:53 PM

TASER policy -- & that of most agencies -- mandates that the device be ALWAYS carried on the support/weak side in order to preclude just such incidents. Tragic, but probably avoidable.

Dave Staskiewicz @ 1/31/2011 6:44 AM

Greg, you have some very valid points. Granted, this was a very trajic incident on both sides. I don't think we need to knee jerk reactions from agencies on how officers carry. This case come down to training, repetition and elevated heart rate training. With these, officers will start to develop the repetition of a cross draw. I'm a firm believer the cross draw is the best option for the vast majority of officers. Look at how long the Taser has been in use and the number of accidents (how the accidents were carried).

True, if everyone would change we may have less chance of weapon confusion. However, we would most likely have more officers injured from misses with their off hand.

There is give and take with both... I still say with any officer and any use of force, it's training, repetition and elevated heart rate training. Just my opinion.

Mel @ 5/29/2012 4:34 PM

It really doesn't matter where the Taser is placed, if the strong hand is still used to fire the thing. Watch any episode of COPS, and you will see each and every officer fire his Taser with his strong hand, regardless of whether or not he drew it with his weak hand. No matter how many Taser confusion incidents they are, until training is changed and put into practice, nothing will improve.

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