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As Lethal Force Incidents Mount, Police Urged to Adopt De-Escalation Tactics

This past August, Baltimore County police shot and killed a 23-year old woman named Korryn Gaines.Police went to Ms. Gaines’ apartment to serve a failure-to-appear bench warrant and a warrant for her boyfriend, who fled the scene. Police say that after gaining access to the apartment they found Gaines with her son sitting on the floor pointing a “long gun” in their direction. Officers then barricaded themselves in the hallway and, according to an official statement, “made every effort to talk to the woman and encourage her to surrender peacefully.” These efforts included calling Ms. Gaines’ father to the scene to help to convince her to surrender. 

About six hours into the standoff police say Ms. Gaines pointed her gun at an officer and threatened to shoot. Police said that an fficer fired one shot and missed, prompting Ms. Gaines to fire her weapon twice. Her shots missed the officers. Police then fired three more times, killing Korryn Gaines. Her son was also shot in the melee by an officer. He did not sustain life threatening injuries. 
In September, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Schellenberger announced that he would not file charges against the officers involved. Ms. Gaines’ family has a pending wrongful death lawsuit against Baltimore County and some of the officers involved in the shooting.  

Ms. Gaines is one of several armed or even unarmed suspects who have come into contact with the police and ended up dead or seriously injured.  
Today on Midday, a conversation about the training police receive to help them defuse situations like this before they end in death for either suspects or the police. What are the protocols when it comes to using deadly force against someone? Do the policies our police departments follow emphasize de-escalation? And is there a particular culture of policing that encourages some officers to use deadly force? 

Tom puts those questions to an expert on policing and use-of-force issues. Dr. Maria Haberfeld is a professor in the Department of Law & Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NY. She joins Tom on the phone from New York.  
Then, Tom talks with two retired police officers with decades of experience on the street and in law enforcement leadership. Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper serves on the advisory board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and is the author of To Protect and To Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. He joins Tom on the phone from Seattle. Ronald Hampton teaches criminal justice at the University of the District of Columbia and sits on the board of the National Police Accountability Project.  He served on the Washington DC Metropolitan police force for 23 years. He joins Tom by phone from D.C..


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Bridget no longer works for Midday at WYPR.