Law enforcement officers on foot who encounter suspects behind the wheel of a moving vehicle find themselves in a precarious position. On the one hand, the suspect may speed off and escape, leading to a dangerous and lengthy chase. On the other hand, the suspect could use the car as a weapon and attempt to hit the officer. The latter has been a point of trepidation among law enforcement officers for a while now, leading to nine incidents in two years of police shooting at suspects in moving vehicles. The number of recent incidents has prompted officials to re-write policy that prompts Los Angeles deputies to refrain from shooting at moving cars.
Officers claim that their fear of being run over and shot is what prompts them to fire into moving vehicles – a fear that is certainly founded in reality. However, law enforcement brass point to the fact that, if the driver is hit and impaired, the vehicle essentially becomes a “two-ton weapon that could easily careen into bystanders.” Additionally, a recent report by the KPCC has found that of those nine officer-involved shootings into moving vehicles, in only one instance was the suspect found to be armed.
As a result of the report, LASD officials have re-written their policy regarding firing into moving vehicles. The policy doesn’t out-right ban the practice, though the findings state that it’s ineffective, and provides only a very limited number of circumstances in which firing into a moving vehicle would be warranted.
According to the LASD, officers are heavily dissuaded from firing into moving vehicles, but if it does happen, the deputy won’t necessarily be penalized for it. Each incident will be investigated on a case-by-case basis and a conclusion will be made based on the facts.
The Sheriff’s Department has had a solid policy regarding firing into moving vehicles on the books for quite some time. The recent re-write will include additional training with an emphasis on following the new guidelines.