Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Is shooting at a car the best way to stop it?

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Police seem to be increasingly using the tactic of shooting at moving vehicles to stop them. Usually the police officer is out of his vehicle and claims he was afraid that he was going to be hit by the car, so the shooting is necessary to stop the car to prevent the car from hitting him. On police blogs, this tactic of shooting at cars finds much favor, and they love to characterize cars as “3000 lb missiles.” In some cases (for example, the Chance Oxner and Billy Shane Harrison shooting of Jonathan Ayers), the officer even seems to put himself in the path of the car on purpose.

With the rise in these types of car shootings, civil cases are beginning to pop up. The latest one is LATITS v. Phillips, Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 2014. In this case, the car was allegedly backing up, and “arcing away” from the defendant police officer (City of Ferndale Officer Lowell Phillips). Sensibly, the court refused to find qi (qualified immunity) for Officer Phillips on a motion to dismiss the complaint. A car backing up from a dead stop is not a “missile,” and the opinion effectively recognizes that.

However, the Latits opinion, and others in car-shooting cases, haven’t yet articulated the obvious thing that needs to be said. So I will now say to the police officers of America:

Shooting at a car is not a reliable way to stop a car. If a car is coming at you, focus on getting out of the way. That is the best way to “make it home for dinner.” If the driver means to hit you, then shooting at the driver will make him more determined to run you down. If the driver isn’t trying to hit you, but you are in the car’s path, then shooting is not only likely to be ineffective, but also a crime and a Constitutional violation.

Written by Burgers Allday

August 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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