Several major cities are loosening rules that prohibit officers from shooting at vehicles to deal with a new threat: terrorists in trucks mowing down and killing pedestrians.
Police in Washington, New York City, Chicago and Las Vegas have begun allowing officers to fire at moving vehicles to stop such ramming attacks. While concern about the tactic remains, authorities say that, in extreme instances, trying to shoot the driver might be the only way to save lives.
“We have to balance the threat to the community with the idea we don’t want to use fatal force unless we absolutely have to,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham. “It’s really important to make sure officers completely understand this is a special circumstance, a last resort, but one that may be necessary.”
Police stressed that they already take considerable steps to prevent ramming attacks at high-profile events where large numbers of people will gather, the Washington Post reports.
But if those efforts fail, and an officer happens to be there, shooting at a moving vehicle may be “the only tactic that’s available,” said J. Thomas Manger, president of the Major City Chiefs Association, a group of police executives from the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies. He added that police leaders “want to make sure we’re not putting police officers at a disadvantage or restricting them from doing what needs to be done.”
The death toll in such attacks is mounting — 10 dead in Toronto last month; 86 dead in the French Riviera city of Nice in 2016; 12 dead at a Christmas market in Berlin, also in 2016; and eight dead on a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan last year.