Despite all the jokes, attorneys are governed by a lot of rules. There are pages of ethics rules, guidelines, and aspirational goals intended to guide the daily work of my profession. One of those standards regards continuing education. In that regard, attorneys are not alone. I represent a lot of nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and of course, LEOs. Each profession maintains guidelines for the minimum number of annual training hours required to maintain licensure and most mandate the type of training.
For LEOs, unlike many other professions, I have seen a trend toward repetition regarding annual training. It seems most LEOs could probably recite the words they will hear every year from their firearms staff by memory. While it is certainly important to get the basics, and those outside our profession seem to believe they “know what we should know”, it is important to grow beyond the basics and explore the details and “breaking news” particularly in the area of the use of force, especially deadly force.
While a complete review is beyond the ability of a single blog post, I’ll pose these questions. When was the last time you read, I mean READ Graham v. Connor? What about Garner v. Tennessee, Scott v. Harris, or the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution? Have you reviewed and printed the state laws regarding the use of deadly force for yourself and the LEOs you supervise or with whom you work every day? Have you read Plumhoff v. Rickard about deadly force during pursuits or City of San Francisco v. Sheehan about the difference between complying with policy and meeting the legal standards for the use of force? What about White v. Pauly regarding the obligation of a LEO to give a warning prior to using deadly force?
If the answer is “No” to most of these questions, don’t be too hard on yourself and your agency as you are not alone. However, use this as a wake-up call to refocus your personal and structured training. Not only should you stay abreast of the law, the time to learn the latest rationale and guidelines for the use of deadly force is not during a hearing or deposition. It is before you find yourself faced with the threat and well before you document your actions through a report or statement. Stay safe.