Last year, almost 1,000 people were killed by police. During that same period, 52 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. Granted, that’s 52 too many, but the disproportionate number of civilians killed at the hands of cops leads one to wonder whether these people who carry guns for a living even try to not kill a suspect.
A sheriff in Kern County, CA handed us a huge piece of the puzzle when he let it slip that it saves a lot of money to shoot to kill rather than to wound.
In 2006, when Donny Youngblood was first seeking office, and an endorsement from the police union, he was asked about the issue.
“When a deputy shoots somebody, which way is better financially? To cripple them or kill them, for the county?”
Off camera, someone asked “kill them?”
Youngblood responded, “Absolutely, because if you cripple them you have to take care of them for life and that cost goes way up.”
“When a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody and kills them? Three million bucks and the family goes away after a long back and forth,” he said. “When it happens in corrections, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
Kern County may be in California, but it’s hardly a bastion of liberalism. It’s a sprawling agricultural area in the state’s Central Valley. The county seat is Bakersfield. Their residents and their sheriff’s department are often at odds with the state’s more progressive agendas.
This is hardly the first time Youngblood has embroiled himself in controversy. In 2015, the Guardian ran a scathing series profiling the Kern County Sheriff’s department as the deadliest in the country.
In all, 13 people have been killed so far this year (2015) by law enforcement officers in Kern County, which has a population of just under 875,000. During the same period, nine people were killed by the NYPD across the five counties of New York City, where almost 10 times as many people live and about 23 times as many sworn law enforcement officers patrol.
According to the ACLU:
More than a quarter of the Bakersfield Police officers’ deadly shootings since 2009 killed someone unarmed and the majority of shootings by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies involved someone unarmed or armed only with a knife.
Youngblood, who’s had his post as County Sheriff since his election in 2006, publicly sides with Donald Trump over his own state’s leadership, particularly on the issue of immigration and sanctuary cities. Trump is suing California over its sanctuary law, which protects undocumented immigrants from deportation when dealing with local law enforcement officials. Youngblood is all for the suit.
“What I really want is for ICE to be able to do their job and follow federal law,” Youngblood said. “I’ve said all along I think the United States needs to come in and sue the state of California, because I think we’ve gone off the rails.”
Youngblood said he disagrees with Senate Bill 54, but since it is the law his office will follow it.
“We don’t do sweeps, we don’t go on sweeps with ICE, we don’t deport people,” he said. “When you get arrested, we don’t ask people if you are in this country illegally of not. It’s not something that we need to know.”
While it is true that Youngblood is among the most extreme sheriffs in the country, he’s not alone in encouraging shooting to kill. In fact, it’s policy across the country if an officer feels in danger.
Members of law enforcement are legally permitted to use deadly force when they have probable cause to believe that a suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm either to the officer or to others. In such cases, most officers are trained to shoot at a target’s center mass, where there is a higher concentration of vital areas and major blood vessels, according to a report by the Force Science Institute, a research center that examines deadly force encounters.
Source: Huffington Post
They don’t shoot at extremities because the odds of hitting and disabling a suspect is pretty low if you’re aiming at smaller and more rapidly moving targets, such as limbs.
Police argue that despite the fact that they are trained to shoot near body’s vital organs, death isn’t the goal, just an unfortunate outcome of adhering to policy.
Troy Church, a former police chief in Maiden, North Carolina, said officers are trained to shoot to stop a suspect who poses an imminent threat. “Can death result? Certainly it can,” Church wrote in an email. “But you are not trained to kill.”
In 1985, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Tennessee vs. Garner, that police can only use deadly force when “the officer has a good-faithed belief that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer.”
Peter Jirasek, a retired police sergeant and criminal justice educator from Illinois, interprets the Supreme Court ruling to say that there are really only two options for police: either kill or don’t shoot.
“If you only seek to wound someone by shooting, you do not have justification to shoot at all,” Jirasek said. “An attempt to shoot to wound all too often can end up in death. It does no good if a police officer says, ‘I was just trying to wound and ended up killing somebody,’ because that officer now faces criminal prosecution, not to mention a civil lawsuit. And the law will say the officer better be justified in using deadly force.”
Youngblood, in his response to the recently released tape, echoed Church:
Youngblood in an interview Tuesday said that any implication he was encouraging deputies to kill is not true. “I never inferred we shoot to kill. We don’t shoot to wound. We shoot to stop a threat,” he said.
The sheriff said his remarks were made 12 years ago before he was elected, and he was discussing an incident that led to charges against a deputy in the jail when the conversation branched to costs. He said he was trying to get across that just because someone does not die, does not mean it costs the county less. “Those are my words, and if I did it again I would do it differently,” he added.
The police union didn’t release the tape because they thought the sentiment was wrong; in fact, they endorsed Youngblood in that 2006 election. Times have changed, though. The three police unions in Kern County turned on Youngblood, not because of corruption or the fact that he runs the deadliest force in the country, but because his deputies haven’t seen a raise in nine years. They are the lowest paid in the area.
Featured image via video screenshot