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Deadly Force Encounters

By R.S. Eden

Eden K9 Group

Unfortunately it is becoming more frequent for officers in todays law enforcement to get involved in lethal confrontations. Situations are  all too frequent that result in the death of a suspect, the officer, an  innocent victim, and even the dog. This is a difficult subject to  approach as many officers have differ ent viewpoints on deadly  confrontations. When you are in a situation where you must use deadly  force to protect yourself or another person from grievous bodily harm or death, you are making a decision that will affect you for the rest of  your life.

That decision cannot be made only at the  point of confron tation. You must be mentally prepared to deal with the  possibil ity that you might have to use deadly force in the course of  your duty. If you cannot prepare for that, and prefer not to think about such things, then you are a danger to yourself, your fellow officers,  and the citizens you protect.

At the time of confrontation you must  make a split second judgment to shoot. In that tiny capsule of time you  must decide whether it is legally appropriate under the circumstances  and if there is any less reasonable means in order to protect yourself  or someone else. You must judge the situation and determine if you can  safely fire at the suspect without endangering bystand ers. There is a  lot of decision making taking place in the space of a split second, and  that decision needs to be made. The time of the confrontation is not the time for you to start making a moral decision as to whether or not you  are capable of employing deadly force. It is never an easy decision to  make, however the morality of applying deadly force must be dealt with  before you ever hit the streets as a police officer. Emotions that deal  with morals can cause you to hesitate. The suspect can kill you or  another innocent person before you can react if you are suddenly  wrestling with your personal feelings on the use of deadly force.

Should you encounter a situation that  requires you to take the life of another person in the course of your  duties, be prepared for the aftermath. You will second guess yourself.  Others will second guess you. Often you will feel remorse and guilty for what you have done. This is not wrong, nor is it unnatural, and you  will need to talk about it.

Most officers feel a need to talk about  it with someone, and yet often their fellow officers seem hesitant to  bring the situation up, due to the sensitive nature of the subject.  Don't be afraid to share your experience with those around you, and if  you need to talk to someone, approach a friend you can trust and just  talk it out.

Nothing can change the events that have  occurred, so don't try to do so by second guessing yourself. It can only lead to confusion and self destruction. Time will heal, and remember  that you must be able to hit the streets being fully capable of going  into a similar situation without hesitation. If you are not prepared to  do so, you are a danger to yourself and your fellow officers.

A K9 handler in particular has to keep in mind another aspect of mental preparation. Your dog is your partner.  He will give you his loyalty and his love to the end. We all become  attached to our dogs in a way that many people do not understand. From  the beginning of training a special bond is built between the dog and  the handler that is instrumental in the dog perform ing to the highest  standard. That bond can only be built from a genuine love for the animal and a dedication to the training program with the dog.

The dog is your partner, friend, and also a much loved companion at home with the family. Anything that occurs on the job that results in the death of the dog not only affects the  handler, but has a profound affect on his family as well.

If your dog is shot while actively  pursuing a suspect, it does not justify your shooting the suspect unless your life is in immediate danger. You cannot let your emotions take  over. In particular, if you see your dog go down, do not get distracted  by the pain of seeing your partner hit. You must concentrate on the  suspect in a detached and precision manner, or you will be put ting  yourself at extreme risk. Control your fear and emotions and you will  come out a survivor.

Note: More advanced information on this  subject during sessions instructed at the International Police K9  Conferences held annually in various locations throughout North America.