Officer-Involved Shootings in Smaller Agencies

An officer-involved shooting is a major event in any agency, but in smaller agencies these events bring unique challenges that come with having smaller forces and fewer resources. Officer-involved shootings are rare in small communities, making it all the more important that agencies have a policy and procedure laid out in advance to guide response should an event occur.

In December 2012, the Durham, New Hampshire Police Department, an agency with 19 sworn officers serving a fluctuating population of 8,700 full-time citizens and 14,000 university students, had to put its plan into action when responding as backup to a domestic incident where shots had been fired in a neighboring community. Immediately upon arrival, Durham Police encountered a man brandishing a handgun. As he pointed the gun toward the officers and ignored repeated commands to drop the weapon, the man was shot.

With the three involved officers on administrative leave following the shooting, Police Chief David Kurz was immediately faced with a 17% reduction in force. His force was short three agency-owned handguns, as the weapons were now part of the investigation. He also needed to address the unique needs of the officers involved and their families, the other members of the department, the media, the insurance company, the union, and more.

Chief Kurz said of the response, “The importance of having a policy in place for uncommon or rare events is critical, as the document provides guidance in a step-by-step format. This is especially helpful in stressful situations such as an officer-involved shooting. As blood pressures begin to drop and crime scenes are secured, there are a host of critical steps that as police chiefs, we will be left to address through litigation and deposition, personnel considerations, union observation, or media and public scrutiny.”

Read a full account of Chief Kurz’s experience and lessons learned in the latest issue of Big Ideas for Smaller Law Enforcement Agencies.

Chief David Kurz and Sergeant Jack Dalton of the Durham Police Department will join us to present about their experiences and recommendations via webinar on Thursday, January 30 at 1:00PM EST. Click here to register.

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