Imagine you go to a call about a suspect who is stealing a car from a safe community. You arrive at the scene, and you go after the stolen car, but he pins you against your cruiser. You cannot do anything to defend yourself, such as use deadly physical force, because it’s not going to be justified in court. You could lose your job and even be put into jail, just for defending yourself.
That was the case for 3-year veteran Farmington police officer James O’Donnell when he attended a call like that on Sept. 20. The officer suffered multiple broken bones and is facing a long and extensive recovery. The question is: Could this have been avoided? The state’s police accountability act should not have been put into place, and it is creating an array of issues for police officers, including whether they are justified in using deadly physical force when defending themselves.
The Connecticut police accountability act, passed last year, (Bill No. 6004), states the expectation for officers is that “(A) He or she (i) has exhausted the reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly physical force, (ii) reasonably believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to a third party, and (iii) reasonably believes such use of force to be necessary…” To simplify things, you must think of every possible alternative to defend yourself before you consider using deadly physical force.
James O’Donnell put himself in this position by going after the stolen car, which prevented him from being able to use deadly force, as it would be unjustified. At what point are police officers going to be justified in defending themselves in dangerous situations?
Sergeant Derek Messier, who’s been a police officer at Canton Police Department for 20 years, states, “We are police officers… we are required by law to not run away, but to protect others.” He is fearful that this bill is will hinder him and his fellow police officers and prevent them from rightfully defending themselves when needed in a dangerous situation. Messier explained that before this bill, cops were judged on whether or not their fellow officers would act the same way in that situation, but now they are being judged on what others would do and whether or not what they did to defend themselves was necessary.
Ctpost.org also explains that “A similar section bans police from searching a person – in other words, patting the individual down – based solely on the person’s consent without other probable cause.” This also creates an issue for police officers because they have absolutely no idea what potentially life-threatening items these individuals may have on them.
Some people might think this police accountability bill is necessary, and that it should be kept in place. While this bill is going to necessarily weed out some of the bad apples in the system, it is still preventing officers from being able to rightfully defend themselves when needed, and could get them into serious situations, like O’Donnell. When asked about this issue, Messier states: “Social media certainly doesn’t help at all or the situation, because people just believe what they want to believe and people also don’t show the full story, and they also don’t have their facts right most of the time. Most of us aren’t bad cops though. We do what is right and we like our jobs. I do believe that some people in the system are not meant to be cops though, and that’s our main issue, but there are many people who are good and do what is right.”
The accountability act for police officers should not have been put into place, and it’s been impacting officers’ abilities to protect themselves in the face of self-defense. We must rethink how this is affecting our state.