A rookie cop fired two shots at a fleeing auto burglary suspect, an apparent violation of a 2016 policy reform. The police union is defending the officer, but an expert on the discredited practice says, “It is insanely reckless and dangerous to shoot at moving vehicles.”
It stands as one of the most contested policy changes in an era of reform for San Francisco’s police force: Officers are now barred in most circumstances from shooting at suspects in moving vehicles, reports the city’s Chronicle. But this month, it happened again. A rookie officer is under investigation after firing two shots at a fleeing auto burglary suspect, a man who was allegedly driving a car toward a fellow cop. No one was shot or seriously injured in the May 11 incident, but details of the early-morning encounter — released this week — have rekindled debate over a use-of-force policy passed in December 2016 after a series of controversial police shootings in the city.
The policy prohibits officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless they pose an “immediate threat” with a weapon like a gun. In general, an officer cannot claim fear of a vehicle running down another officer or a pedestrian as justification for opening fire. Complicating this month’s shooting is a lack of video footage because the officer who fired at the vehicle had not activated his body-worn camera, another possible breach of policy. The police union is defending the officer, but reform advocates argue police should never shoot at moving cars. “If the only thing creating the threat is the vehicle, you do not shoot, period,” said John Crew, a police practices expert formerly with the ACLU. “Bullets do not stop cars. It is insanely reckless and dangerous to shoot at moving vehicles.”