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Video: Research Shows Officers Hesitating to Use Deadly Force When Necessary

February 26, 2015  | 

VIDEO: Florida Agency Releases Video of Controversial Use of Force After Pursuit That Critically Injured Officer

Across the country, police officers make split-second decisions in potentially deadly situations. And in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, the issue of race complicates their challenge.

Data from a recent study shows that white and African-American officers alike hold a stronger subconscious bias against African-American suspects — and that they are now overcompensating for that bias, becoming more hesitant to shoot minority suspects. Researchers believe that's because those officers fear backlash.

Such research is underway at Washington State University Spokane, where officers are trained to handle potentially deadly encounters in a state-of-the-art simulator.

TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen observed on monitors as one officer walked through a realistic scenario, during which a simulated suspect fired on him and the officer returned fire. Within 1.1 seconds, the suspect fired twice and the officer fired four times.

Washington State University researcher Steve James, one of the country's leading experts on police shootings, helps run the program. "What we're trying to understand here is what makes these situations difficult for officers, what's going through their mind, how their bodies are reacting," he told Rossen.

Rossen tried the simulator himself, in a scenario about a suspicious person who might be wanted in connection with an assault. Rossen was instructed to use deadly force only if his or someone else's life was threatened.

In the blink of an eye, a simulated suspect appeared and pulled out his hand, and Rossen reacted by opening fire. "Was that a beer bottle?" Rossen said afterward. "Oh God, he had a beer bottle. It looked like a gun, it was so dark."

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

rede2hike @ 2/26/2015 6:06 PM

In my agency, guys are counting the minutes till they can retire so they can leave this career field because of all this BS. We have had guys leave half way thru their career because of the risk of being hung out and the lack of support from the public and the elevated risks to go find another career field since Ferguson.
We just did a testing for 2 patrolman positions & had 9 guys show up. Last time we had 60 applicants test. That's a sign, the risks, pay, and sleep deprivation are not worth it anymore. Boy, I'm glad I have my 25 years in.

Retiredjustintime @ 2/28/2015 9:18 AM

I retired last fall after 37 years. I saw a return to the 70's when we were fair game for everyone, and just didn't want to put up with a second round of it. I don't believe the profession will recover this time; I think society has changed so much that a fundamental change in policing is near, and it won't be for the better. The pendulum may NOT swing back this time, so I say to the young coppers, plan for the future, protect yourselves and each other, and most importantly, remember that its still a noble profession, its still a job. Make time for yourself and your family, and don't lose perspective. For every agitator and anti-police loudmouth, there are hundreds of people who rely on you to protect them and their families.
God bless you all!

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