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Recent Police Shootings Raise Questions About Proper Protocol


So what should happen in an encounter between a police officer and someone who is armed, legally or not? We're putting that question to David Klinger, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a former patrol officer in Los Angeles and in Redmond, Wash. Welcome to the program.

DAVID KLINGER: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Is there standard protocol for how to confront someone who's armed, say, during a traffic stop?

KLINGER: Basically, yes. What it boils down to is to have the individual keep their hands visible and then make inquiry about where the weapon is. Is it on their person? Is it in the vehicle? If they say it's in the vehicle, what you want to do is you want to have the individual step out of the vehicle. If they say that it's on their person, then probably the most logical thing to do is to call for another unit. That's basically it without cutting it too fine.

SIEGEL: But as all that is happening, are you - if you're the police officer, where is your weapon, and what are you watching for?

KLINGER: If I have an individual who's completely compliant, my weapon's probably going to be holstered. I'm going to have my hand on it. If I've got a situation where the individual is reaching around, who's non-compliant, I'll have my gun out.

SIEGEL: That's not a cue to fire at that point but to raise your weapon, you're saying.

KLINGER: I don't know about raising the weapon. It's all going to depend. And these are time slices that are going to go very, very rapidly. But if I have an individual whose - the hands are now moving towards a waistband, towards a glove box, whatever, and they've told me there's a gun there, my gun is going to come up at that point.

But we have to understand that police officers shouldn't be pointing the weapon unless they've got lawful basis to go ahead and basically pull the trigger. And so I'm talking about very precise issues of having a weapon raised versus a weapon pointed. But if I've got an individual who is reaching for a gun, I see the visible gun; I'm screaming at himn don't do it, don't do it, and they grab the gun, it's time to shoot.

SIEGEL: In this case, it appears that Philando Castile was shot and may very well have bled to death with a police officer standing outside the car...


SIEGEL: ...With his girlfriend next to him. Was the officer - at that moment, was he obliged or expected to try to give some first aid to the gunshot victim?

KLINGER: Yes. Police officers have an affirmative obligation to render some type of first aid, to get medical professionals there as soon as possible once the scene is rendered safe. What we do have, unfortunately, is situations where people have been shot, and they are still in the fight, and they continue. If the officer lets his guard down, the individual will then exploit that. So officers are trained to secure the subjects in handcuffs, search the subject and then render first aid.

SIEGEL: Although here it's not clear that there was any fight at all.


SIEGEL: That...


SIEGEL: ...Anything had...


SIEGEL: ...Preceded that.

KLINGER: Exactly.

SIEGEL: Perhaps I'm inferring too much here, but I think a part of the problem for Mr. Castile was that he, in fact, had a handgun, which his girlfriend said he was licensed to have. A great many people carry guns in the United States.


SIEGEL: In that situation, she said that he had been trying to remove his wallet and explaining that fact when he was shot. For someone who might be in this situation and who has a concealed weapon on his person and is stopped, what are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to respond to a police officer who finds a broken taillight and make sure that he doesn't think you're threatening him with a weapon?

KLINGER: Well, what you're supposed to do is what, apparently, the driver did. He identified himself as an individual who has a CCW permit and has a gun. And what should I do, officer? And that is how it should go from there. And then listen to what the officer says. If he was following the orders of the police officer and then was suddenly shot multiple times, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.


KLINGER: But I believe we have to wait until we have all the evidence before we can render a final judgment.

SIEGEL: Professor Klinger, thanks for talking with us.

KLINGER: Thanks so much for having me here, and I wish it were under circumstances other than dead people.

SIEGEL: David Klinger is professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is author of the book "Into The Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View Of Deadly Force." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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