At a time when it seems like every day brings a new story about excessive use of force by police somewhere in the country, the police department of one major American city is adding regulations to bring police practices more in line with common sense.
Cleveland, Ohio, yesterday ordered its officers to stop shooting their guns at moving vehicles.
“If you have a vehicle that is refusing to stop, that is not justification for firing at that vehicle, period," said Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath at a press conference. The only exception to the rule, McGrath said, would come when “deadly force is being used against the police officer or another person present by means other than the moving vehicle.”
In other words, if someone is trying to run you over with a car, the city is telling its police, just get out of the way. The city’s police union is against the new order, saying that police officers must have the ability to defend themselves against cars that are used as weapons by suspects.
"A vehicle can be used as deadly force, and we should be able to use deadly force to stop a vehicle,” said Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer.
“We’re just trying to do the right thing,” McGrath said (pictured, right).
In November of last year, Cleveland police chased a car driven by Timothy Russell for 23 minutes when they thought they heard a gunshot coming from Russell’s car. When Russell stopped his car in a parking lot, ending the chase, officers started shooting, firing 137 shots and killing Russell and his female passenger, Malissa Williams.
The pair were found to be unarmed. Russell’s brother later said the car had a defective muffler and that the police might have heard a backfire.
The city held up 75 police officers for disciplinary measures related to the deadly incident. But McGrath said the new restriction on officers firing at cars had nothing to do with the November debacle.
SOURCES: Cleveland Plain Dealer (2), Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Daily Beast