Why many police traffic stops become fatal

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Trainers and tactical leaders typically emphasize that vehicle stops are responsible for more officer kills than almost any other type of interaction.

Of the roughly 280 officers killed on duty since late 2016, around 60 died – mostly from gunfire – by drivers who were stopped, a Times analysis found. (About 170 other officers were killed in work-related accidents.) But the increased risk claims ignore context: vehicle stops far outweigh any other type of police traffic involving civilians.

With police stopping so many cars and trucks – tens of millions each year – the likelihood of a police officer being killed every time a vehicle stops without accidents is less than 1 in 3.6 million, two studies have shown. At stops for common things According to a 2019 study by Jordan Blair Woods, a law professor at the University of Arkansas, the likelihood of traffic violations is only 1 in 6.5 million.

“The risk is statistically negligible, but existentially exacerbated,” said Mr. Gill, Salt Lake County’s district attorney and a strong advocate of increased police accountability.

State law generally prohibits police officers from using lethal force unless they reasonably consider it necessary to prevent impending death or serious injury. Under pressure from street protests Over the 2014 murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the recent Black Lives Matter marches, many law enforcement agencies have made de-escalation their catchphrase. They often advise officers to defuse conflicts with drivers, for example by listening carefully instead of just barking orders.

“The last thing I have to try is to exercise my authority, like, ‘You will do what I tell you because I told you to,'” said Jon Blum, a former police officer who now has training materials for. writes police authorities and the International Association of Police Chiefs. “The officer has to sell the person.”

The departments have increasingly instructed officers to have suspected lawbreakers driven away and later found in order to avoid the risk of possible confrontation or speedy prosecution. “They have the guy’s license plate and know where he lives,” said Scott Bieber, the police chief in Walla Walla, Washington.


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