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Video: Warning Shots Considered as De-Escalation Technique

October 26, 2017  | 

VIDEO: Warning Shots Considered as De-Escalation Technique

A new policy endorsing the use of warning shots by police to de-escalate potentially deadly confrontations is driving a rift among some law enforcement leaders who believe the practice only heightens risk and should be abandoned.

The controversial issue broke into the open during the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference held this week in Philadelphia. Some IACP members are calling for the removal of the provision allowing for warning shots contained in the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force policy paper. That document was approved by a coalition of police associations, including IACP.

"I'll be real candid, I think it's a stupid idea," said James Varrone, assistant police chief in Wilmington, NC, who first raised the matter Sunday at a law enforcement town hall event staged to coincide with the IACP conference. "I thought the idea of warning shots and the dangers posed by such a policy went away decades ago or longer than I have been in law enforcement – and that's been 31 years.''

The policy is not binding on any law enforcement agency, as departments adopt their own guidelines on the use of deadly force. But some officials told USA Today the warning-shot option could dangerously cloud officers' responses to the most difficult question they face on the job: when to shoot?


Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

Jon Retired LEO @ 10/26/2017 4:52 PM

We are really going to Hell in a hand basket if warning shots are indeed approved. What about know your target and what is beyond. you really don't know where that round is going to go no matter where you shoot as a warning.

Dan McDevitt @ 10/27/2017 6:04 AM

In my 36 years in law enforcement, the only thing I've ever seen "Warning Shots" do is to turn "casual joggers" into "World Class Sprinters".

lamann483 @ 10/27/2017 8:10 AM

I'm sure we've all heard "never say never"... there are many documented incidents where warning shots worked, while I'm not aware of any warning shots causing unintended injury. Officers should have the ability to make that split-second decision when his or her life is at risk, and to decide whether or not they choose to use one more option before using deadly force.

Jenanne @ 10/27/2017 10:11 AM

I agree with Jon Retired LEO, warning shots eventually do come down and you won't know where, or if someone may have been hit. NOW, if you fire a "warning shot" and (God forbid) the criminal shoots and injures or kills the Officer, I can hear him now at trial, "I only shot at the Officer, because he shot at me first. I was defending myself!" Then what...

Retired APD @ 10/27/2017 11:52 AM

Here we go again and now we have gone full circle. The profession of Law Enforcement has never been better trained and more professional than it is today. As long as knee-jerk politicians respond to the uneducated minority the actions of cops will always be second guessed. The day we get back to holding the individual responsable for his actions will we get back to some semblance of sanity. The suspect always has the option to comply and avoid forceing the cop to escalate force to overcome force. We can't come in second in a fight and the public needs to understand this.

ssc1911 @ 10/27/2017 2:59 PM

This is ridiculuos.What aer they thinking with this, firing warning shots as a deescalaltion technique? We were alaways taugt and told never to fire a warnin shot. As othwes have commented here, what goes up must come down, and being suer of a target. This is ridiculous I woner who thougt of this. How about the perps, other law breakers etc., doing what the police command them to do. The public needs to be taught to have respect for the police and they have to comply with a lawful order from an officer. This warning shot isseu could make lawyers rich, referring to liability here by firing a warning shot,

Think about it @ 10/28/2017 8:24 AM

Tactical team shave used diversionary techniques (ie flash bangs, etc) for years. Would you use a placed shot to distract a bad guy to let a cop with a better vantage take the shot or warn a brother officer of an assasin sneaking up on him (as in Baton Rouge) or keep a rigid policy that maintains the Politically Correct, absurdity that not only places cops in physical jeopardy; but exposes them to legal/financial sanctions. Oh, I forgot, we can shoot guns out of perps hands and the unexpected never happens.

R P @ 10/28/2017 11:01 AM

Warning !!!!!! Shots !!!!!! Seriously !!!!!!!!
Worlds Screwed Up Enough without contributing !!
Not the Old West anymore ! Jeeeeez !!!!!!!!

Jim B. @ 10/28/2017 12:12 PM

Let me say first off, I'm not an advocate for warning shots. But all you guys arguing against it seem to jump to the "the bullet has to come down somewhere" and "know your target" arguments. Your assuming the warning shots will be fired into the air or into concrete or something where the chance of a ricochet is likely. For those of you who work in major cities, I guess I can understand that reasoning. I work in a very rural area. For most of my contacts standing on, or surrounded by, dirt, grass, trees, open county, etc. If someone is taking off from me or struggling with another officer, I can think of plenty of situations where I could fire into the ground a few feet in front of me with virtually no chance that the bullet would go anywhere other than into the ground in front of me.

Again, I'm not saying this is a good idea. I'm also saying it's not automatically a ridiculous one.

ssc1911 @ 10/28/2017 1:27 PM

This is ridiculous. What are they thinking with this, firing warning shots as a deescalaltion techniques. I was taught never to fire a warning shot. As others have commented here, what goes up must come down, and being sure of your target. I wonder who tyhougt of this idea? insane, a lawsuit waiting to happen or an officer who fires a warning shot will be brought up on charges ( internal and possibly depending the firearms laws of a jusrisdiction they work in. What about agency liability for this? How about the perps and other law breakers actually obeying an officer's lawful commands . This will make lawyers rich with lawsuits against cities and police agencies.

tedb @ 10/30/2017 6:46 AM

IAMANN483...are you insane or just new at the job? Please share with us these "Documented incidents where warning shots worked" that you speak of. And, if the officers life is at immediate risk, why would he or she choose to fire a warning shot instead of using immediate deadly force? I am a certified (federally and state) firearms instructor and have been instructing for 49 years. We eliminated the idiotic warning shots policy back in the 60's because it was extremely dangerous for everyone involved, including innocent people far distant from the scene of the shooting. Any time that trigger is pulled, it should be intentional and with a definite target in mind. Warning shots are bad policy and will eventually get a department sued. No officer in his right mind should be mindlessly firing shots where you don't have a target in sight.

HIPCHIP @ 11/4/2017 10:21 PM

The whole reason warning shots are not allowed is because where is that round going? Just wait until it hits someone or something and the dept. county, city will be paying out the nose!

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