Noting a “disproportionately high number of officer-involved shootings” this year, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates has ordered all officers to undergo specialized training. The order comes after the city’s eighth officer-related shooting of the year. As any Colorado criminal law attorney can tell you, the streets can be a dangerous place, but if officers don’t practice discretion in their actions and their willingness to use force, we end up with little more than sanctioned anarchy.
Denver trial lawyers spend a lot of time defending the rights of those accused of crimes, both legitimate and those of which the defendant is innocent. While there are a lot of bad people out there, it’s disturbing to think that police may be reaching for their guns first, before exhausting other options for bringing in suspects.
In our society it is imperative we remember one of the core tenets of our legal system: that a person accused of a crime is considered innocent, until proven guilty after a fair trial with representation by a qualified criminal attorney. When an officer reaches for a gun for any reason other than defense against an imminent threat to his own life, or the life of another, he sets himself up as judge and jury and may well be executing an innocent person.
This is not to accuse officers of specific misconduct; indeed, in the most recent incident, two officers only fired when a suspect pointed a weapon at them. It only means that resorting to deadly force should for any police officer be a last resort, and the new training ordered by Chief Oates seems to reinforce that idea. The use of nonlethal force by police officers is always a positive for society at large. It lets the courts and criminal attorneys do their jobs, and it gives the accused their day in court.