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by Peter Moskos

December 16, 2014

Baltimore Officer Down

From the Baltimore Sun:
Groman and another officer approached the car from the driver's side and another officer approached from the passenger's side, police say in charging documents. Officers directed the driver, Tavon Sullivan, to get out of the car, police say, and he sat on the sidewalk.

Police say Jones, sitting in the back seat, refused Groman's orders to exit. Groman told Jones to show his hands, which were in his jacket pocket and waistband, according to Maj. Stanley Branford, commander of the Homicide division, but Jones did not.

Police say Groman told Jones he would be tased if he didn't comply. Groman pulled out his Taser just as Jones pulled out a black Rossi .357-caliber revolver, police say in charging documents.

Detectives said Monday they do not know who fired first. No officers fired a gun, police said. After Groman was struck, police said, Jones ran out of the car and was chased by two officers.

Police say Jones ran into a backyard and was scaling a fence when an officer hit him with his Taser, allowing police to arrest him.
"We've had marches nationwide over the fact that we have lost lives in police custody," [Commissioner] Batts said. "I wonder if we'll have those same marches as officers are shot, too."
It's worth noting that 1) Yes, cops get shot at even in situation where the shooter has no realistic chance of getting away with it. 2) No officer fired a shot. And this includes even after the suspect shot an officer and was trying to run away. I mention this because if cops really were out there to murder black people, this would have been a fine chance to get away with a freebie. But that's not the way police officers think. 3) Had the officer drawn his gun instead of a the less-lethal Taser, well, who knows what would have happened? But the Taser didn't help keep Groman from being shot. 4) Had the officer drawn his gun, no doubt some people would be complaining about an officer drawing his gun for no good reason.

Officer Groman is expected to "recover." But as I've said before, you don't ever completely recover from something like this. My thoughts are with him


Anonymous said...

Not even in the top 10 dangerous jobs, but they think they are all heroes facing death courageously every day. The common people just don't understand. Bravo to you PCM for being so brave if only briefly.

David Woycechowsky said...

Sounds like he didn't have good reason to pull out his gun until it was too late. Realistically I don't think there is a way for policemen to keep from getting shot in ambushes or vehicle stops.

Only way to significantly cut down on police death rates is to change the way policemen drive and to have them get further off the road when they are out of their vehicles. Kind of a dry subject for as whole lot of blog posts I guess.

campbell said...

Sounds like he didn't have good reason to pull out his gun until it was too late.

Not at all. There's literally millions of guns floating around this country. Put your hands in your pocket and waistband and refuse to take them out and you should expect to be making your next decision while looking down the barrel of an officers gun.

Moskos said...

I was thinking more in the line of Campbell. This is *why* you pull your gun when it may not be needed.

This was a potential threat situation. And (my own often stated minority opinion) Tasers should not be used for compliance situations.

Especially because in this situation (which isn't in my post) it was a traffic stop based on previous suspicion.

David Woycechowsky said...

Maybe, but officer probably would have been better off taking cover first and then directing the action from behind an engine block if he believed there might be a firearm. Otherwise it becomes a game of quick draw with directly opposing officers ready to fire from opposite sides of the vehicle. (see Mark Duggan shooting accounts if you want to see how this can go south) And, of course, the gravest risk is to the vehicle occupant who removes his hands from his pockets but has no gun (see video of Groubert shooting which shows how this type of thing can happen).

Cover first, then draw and aim from a covered position. Sometimes the perp will escape, but usually not, and, more importantly, it maximizes chances of surviving the encounter.

As far as what I mean by "cover," it would have meant ducking under the window and crouched scrambling to a position behind, or in front of, the vehicle where the armed guy was stubbornly sitting.

I have twice had encounters where I have ducked down out of the footprint of a window in response to seeing a person brandishing a handgun in a threatening manner. Once it was the window of my apartment. Once it was the windows of some parked cars on a city street. Duck and cover. It is a proven winning technique for survival. Of course, once you are in a position of cover, then it is good to have a gun to draw and aim, but sadly I did not in my two encounters with bad men with handguns.

On a related note, when I was about 5, my friend's mother pulled us out of the window after we watched the chief of police get the shoulder shot off of his coat when he was trying to storm a house of a mentally ill guy who had just shot his mom (eventually fatal). I can still remember the police taking cover in response to the shot before I was yanked away from the window and I started to cry because I didn't really understand what was going on. I just knew that it seemed bad.

Anonymous said...

Of course, treat every potential threat with lethal force. Safety first. Tamir Rice was a threat;the head of the police union declared it and I believe it. I saw that video. The cop acted appropriately. Did you see that gun; PCM here declared it lethal. Shoot first and ask questions later because its the only way to insure your safety in a job where you can get shot at on any day (and as PCM so helpfully reminds us all the time even an unarmed person is dangerous). SHOOT FIRST!

campbell said...

As far as what I mean by "cover," it would have meant ducking under the window and crouched scrambling to a position behind, or in front of, the vehicle where the armed guy was stubbornly sitting.

Funny. Not "sit on your gun" funny, but I still laughed. No, do not play pop goes the weasel with a gun in your hand and especially don't do it and move to the front of the car when the other cops are at the rear of the car.

But it is an interesting problem because removal of a noncompliant subject from a vehicle is always kind of sketchy. In this particular instance someone definitely needs to be assigned to lethal cover. The taser is not a great option, especially in December when everyone's wearing puffy coats.

But let's say even at gunpoint this guy is still noncompliant. Now what? This is where OC can be really handy. Keep someone on gun and spray a bunch of OC into the vehicle and let him marinate a bit. If he's still noncompliant at least now he'll have a harder time seeing you approaching to force him out. And if he does have a gun hopefully the OC hampering his vision will make him rethink a shootout or at least throw off his aim.

Moskos said...

A door panel does not provide cover. And you would never want to get in front of or behind a car.

Once you see a threat, you need to act, quickly. Retreat (to cover) can sometimes be the best tactic. Shooting first is often the better way to go.

David Woycechowsky said...

I said duck below panel and scramble around front or back of vehicle. If there was a way to teleport to the front or back of the vehicle I would have recommended that, but, unfortunately, that technology is still under development and a bit buggy.

In this situation, at least as reported, the murderer had his hand in his clothing and it was not known if a gun was there or not. Assuming that is true, then it is better to take cover and do the felony stop thing from a covered position.

There are situations where it is better to fire first, but firing first, instead of getting to a covered position, everytime a thug has his hand in his pocket is not going to work out well for the policeman, whether the thug has a gun or not.

Moskos said...

Assuming that [he had his hand in his clothing and it was not known if a gun was there] then it is better to take cover and do the felony stop thing from a covered position."


Retreat and take cover every time you have a non-compliance situation?! Boy, if that was S.O.P., imagine the fun people could have with police playing the non-compliant game.

And while you're retreating, do you step away carefully walking backwards? Do you have your gun out? Do you run for cover? You're advocating a practical absurdly that wouldn't increase anybody's safety.

Do you issue verbal commands while taking cover?

And then what?

What do you do when the person runs while you're busy retreating because... his hands were in his pocket?

If a guy won't show you his hands, you draw down on that person. Then you gain physical hands-on control of the suspect (ideally not the same officer). And if you see a gun held in any connection to his hand, you may shoot.

This cop shooter should have been shot, and sooner. But the cops had a drawn taser in what turned out to be a gunfight.

David Woycechowsky said...

I am only suggesting a retreat similar to what Stamper suggested in the Tamir Rice case.

Moskos said...

Which Stamper never did.

David Woycechowsky said...

"saying the officer could have taken cover behind his car and evaluated the situation"

Moskos said...

Stamper is not talking about any retreat.

Stamper is talking about the *approach* of the officer. What the officers *should* have done.

Instead of what they did.

He also explicitly defends shooting a kid with a realistic looking BB gun, which seems relevant.

David Woycechowsky said...

Let me put it this way:

Officer Groman attempted to use his taser to avoid getting shot.

Why do you believe that a gun would have been more effective?

Neither a gun, nor a taser is guaranteed to instantly incapacitate someone. With a taser, the problem is that the taser might not connect (but, if it does, then incapacitation is instantantaneous). OTOH, a bullet is probably more likely to connect (with either the perp or a policeman on the opposite side of the vehicle), but incapacitation is not likely to be instantaneous.

I am suggesting that Officer Groman was better off going with a third option, which was ducking out of sight as he scrambled to "Stamper-style" cover.

campbell said...

Why do you believe that a gun would have been more effective?

Because don't bring a taser to a gunfight? Also, while suspects don't always act rationally, they might rethink a shootout if they're already looking down the business end of a Glock. In this case the suspect might very well have made the decision to shoot because he knew he had the drop on the cops.

David Woycechowsky said...

@ Campbell:

If the perp "had the drop on the perp" then that means that Groman pulled and aimed his weapon too late -- not that he pulled the wrong weapon.

Furthermore, if the perp did get the drop on Groman, then he should have taken cover, rather than tried foolong around with any of the many weapons on his belt -- and that is the point I was making above. Cover first, and then do quickdraw -- in that order.

campbell said...

Suspect had a gun, and the cop had a non lethal tool with that happens to fail like half the time, maybe even more in winter when people have heavy clothing on. Suspect had the advantage and he knew it.

Cover first, and then do quickdraw -- in that order.

Repeat as often as you like. Still a terrible tactic. Also, what is this "quickdraw"? As opposed to a slow leisurely draw for some nice casual gunplay? And you're wrong about the order. If in fact you're incorporating movement into a threat response then the drawstroke should be happening as you start moving in case you need to be shooting while you move to cover.

Moskos said...

Also, you're likely to miss if you shoot while moving.

So while cover is great in a gunfight, if it's not right next to you... I'd take my chances in the open, standing still, and trusting that my aim in better than the criminal's.

David Woycechowsky said...

There was partial cover by getting out of the footprint of the window. There was a lot more cover five feet away. I am all for Officer Groman tasering this guy before he gets his hands out of his pockets, but once it becomes a drawing contest, Groman should have chosen the scramble for cover option. Even if the quickdraw contest is a tie, the perp will still get a couple shots off -- more if Groman had used a a gun rather than a taser. Once the perp sees the gun, he is going to shoot, so long as he can see Officer Groman.

CollegeCop said...

"Not even in the top 10 dangerous jobs, but they think they are all heroes facing death courageously every day. The common people just don't understand. Bravo to you PCM for being so brave if only briefly."

You have to wonder at the sanity of a person who has nothing better to do than troll a guy's blog. That is an awful lot of butt hurt there, please show us all on the Doll where PCM touched you lol.

As for the comment itself, that old tired trope has been making the round for years.

The problem with it is that it's basically faulty. 1st of all, it's based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics death rate analysis which they admit is flawed. for example it only counts actual commercial fishermen where as when counting law enforcement, it counts ALL state and local sworn officers (many of whom are not assigned to positions requiring public contact, it's the public contact that is dangerous.

Those "dangerous jobs" articles also don't provide context. BLs tracks THOUSANDS of job catagories, law enforcment falls in a range of 10-12 out of THOUSANDS. And yet the police haters see that is "police work isn't dangerous because it doesn't make the top 10" instead of stating the more truthful "damn, Law Enforcement is more dangerous than thousands upon thousands of other jobs, heck it's close to being in the top 10 most dangerous jobs".

Police haters (like all such evil, hateful people starting with the KKK and such) aren't interested in the truth (in this case, the truth is that law enforcement as a career is measurably more dangerous than jobs most people do), they are interested in hurting or eliminating their enemies.

bacchys said...

Even limiting it to the "public contact" it's not that dangerous.

When discussing police using excessive force in some circumstances, it's often trotted out as a defense that there are millions of interactions between police and people every year, and only tiny percentage of those interactions involve excessive force.

An even tinier percentage results in harm to the police, let alone death.

While every interaction has a risk of becoming violent, it's not a large risk, statistically.

I hope the officer recovers. It's unfortunate that Batts, the Baltimore City Police Commissioner, foolishly decided to make this the "other side of the story" with respect to the protests over police violence. If the shooter in this case is allowed to investigate himself, or his friends do it, and his defense attorney conducts the grand jury, we'll have an equivalent situation.

CollegeCop said...

While every interaction has a risk of becoming violent, it's not a large risk, statistically. "

Youn know what's an even smaller risk? A police officer using 'excessive force'. And yet, to the police hater, this small risk of police misconduct is a reason for broad and sweeping changes to police culture.

This same small risk of encountering a bad cop is a reason for people to produce 'know your rights' videos and even live training. This 'small risk' is enough for coast to coast protests.

If you want people to keep things in context, you yourself have to do the same thing. Police critics are fond of telling us that we are at little risk from the public while not being able to grasp that the reverese is true "the vast majority of citizens will never have in interaction with a cop harsher than "do you know why I stopped you" during a traffic stop.

Moskos said...

Yeah, what he said!

Anonymous said...

Of course if Peter Lynch and PCM are the ones defining what is and isn't excessive force then what you say is simply a tautology. In fact, it is much more likely that a police officer will use excessive force on someone (if we use the citizen's point of view and not the cop's) than it is that the incident will result in harm to the police officer.

Moskos said...

But the law defines excessive force as being from the perspective of a reasonable police officer. So it really depends on whether I (as a former police officer) am reasonable in my perspective. I can't answer that, but I do think I'm more reasonable than Lynch (*Pat* Lynch, by the way).

The law also says the grand jury gets to decide. So when both reasonable police officers and a grand jury decide something is legal, it's odd for a citizen to say "no way was that legal!"

Force can be immoral. It can be wrong. Maybe it *shouldn't* be legal. But the legal point is much more narrow (and much more pro-police).