From Joe Biden’s Town Hall transcript on how to reform the police:
There’s a lot of things we’ve learned and it takes time, but we can do this. You can ban chokeholds, you can — but — but beyond that, you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances, de-escalate.
So, instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.
Why not just shoot the knife or gun out of the bad guy’s hand like on the TV Westerns that Joe avidly watched in 1955?
From TV Tropes:
Discussed in Blue Bloods after Jamie kills a man for the first time. A reporter at a press briefing asks Frank why Jamie shot to kill instead of trying to shoot the gun out of the man’s hand. Frank just sort of gives him an exasperated look before explaining that Jamie followed department policy, which is to shoot until the threat is neutralized. Then, when the reporter keeps trying to press the issue, Frank shuts him up for good:
Frank: There’s a man in front of you waving a gun in your direction. You have a second to react. What do you do?
Reporter: Well, first I’d-
Frank: [interrupts] Too late. You’re dead.
Joe has been expounding upon his “shoot them in the leg” reform for months on the campaign trail. Does it focus group well? Has nobody asked him about how it is supposed to work in the real world? And how would an announced police policy of Don’t Shoot to Kill de-escalate circumstances? Wouldn’t it incentivize crooks to try their luck charging the cops?
By the way, I could imagine a policy of shooting out tires on getaway cars might be worth considering. For example, in the Jacob Blake case in Kenosha, you have Blake’s ex-girlfriend screaming that this man is stealing her car with her children inside it. Maybe in these kind of cases where the cops arrive and they can’t tell if it’s really a kidnapping or just a domestic dispute, shooting out a tire would buy some time to sort things out.
But, of course, shooting at a car with three children it it …
By the way, my mother was selected for the jury to try Richard Pryor in the January 1, 1978 incident in which, after a tumultuous New Year’s Eve, his wife climbed in her car to leave him for good, but Pryor, wishing to slow things down, shot the engine of her car in his driveway. (But the trial was then delayed, so the jury my mom was on was dismissed.)
Update: iSteve commenter Rob Lee explains how it all really works:
I’ve been around law enforcement firearms training – mainly as a first responder – for a few years, and shooting at both limbs (as a way of disabling the assailant) and vehicle tires (or any other part of the vehicle, really) is pure Hollywood nonsense.
You only need three main organs to continue fighting when the ‘flight or fight’ adrenaline kicks in (indeed to survive at all – ask any quad amputee), and those are the brain, heart and lungs. When the fight starts in earnest, all the blood draws in from your extremities to protect those three vital organs, which is why your hands and feet tingle when you’re under extreme stress. Ever been in a real fistfight and felt like you had hot iron in your belly and were floating on numb legs? That’s the effect at work. But to the point the blood leaves your arms and legs to concentrate in your torso and protect your vitals. I’ve seen some gunshot victims with clean, bloodless holes in their hands and forearms not realize they were shot until the blood started to recirculate, post incident (at which point it spurts). That’s why EMTs cut away all clothing in a shooting incident – to look for holes that haven’t cleanly penetrated (exit wounds) or that haven’t started leaking yet. Tactically, shooting in the arms and legs wastes time, ammunition and raises the possibility that the round will pass through and fly unimpeded downrange… kids down the street on the playground and all that.
Limbs move fast, your torso moves slowly. Remember your football coach yelling at you to tackle at the hips, not down at the legs… same principle. Training cops to shoot at limbs will plunge their hit probability down in to gangster territory, flying willy-nilly. That’s precisely the opposite of where I think all of you want police bullets to go. Into bad guy, not into thin apartment wall.
Interestingly enough, lots of people do get shot in the hands and forearms ‘unintentionally,’ as untrained or poorly trained shooters will tend to panic and shoot at the threat – which in their mind is the opponent’s firearm. The end of that barrel can look a mile wide when pointed at you! so they shoot at the other gun and hit the hand that holds it. But again, not on purpose. That’s ‘in the black’ panic mode; not a good place to be.
Even center mass hits can take awhile to down a suspect if they’ve made the decision to just not quit. Stories abound of people taking half a dozen rounds and continuing to fight – even to go on and disarm and shoot the officer with her own firearm – only to expire later on when their own holes start to leak. Heavy clothing plays a big factor as penetration is lessened. So does ‘will to win’ and ‘I’m not going back to jail under any circumstances.’ Adrenaline is an amazing drug, capable of wonders. You may not believe this, as Hollywood says otherwise, but for shooters with little or poor training, small caliber handguns are not really that effective in stopping people. Also, as Steve alludes to from time to time, medical technology really has improved to the point where some people who would have died in an earlier age now walk away with manageable after effects.
At least as far as I have witnessed the actual ‘decision to shoot training,’ no one (at least on the non-military, non-sniper federal level) is ever trained to “shoot to kill.” You’re trained to shoot to stop the assailant from doing whatever it is they were doing to raise the incident to deadly force. You have to justify every round, so you better have a good reason to let fly. To be most effective, you shoot center mass, as that’s the largest target on the human body with the obvious highest potential for heart and lung damage. Another Hollywood myth is drilling several rounds perfectly into one space. You don’t shoot ten rounds into one hole. Shooting a human is not like target shooting. Professionals will spread their rounds around the torso for maximum organ damage and internal leakage.
The feds I work with only draw their firearms in defense of their life, their partner or an innocent third party. They do not draw their firearms until it is the absolute last card to play, because if you pull out your firearm only to threaten, and then fail to fire, you’ve just laid down your last card without the intent of using it, and the bad guy might call your bluff (probably by wrestling it from you and killing you with it). Many agencies have gone away from the gradual escalation model (verbal, ‘hands-on,’ non-lethal, lethal), as it’s finally been realized and accepted in the ‘train as you fight’ world that a bad guy can go from verbal to lethal in seconds. Too many cops were getting hurt when the bad guy went from ‘Eff You’ to gun fight, while the cop was still thinking “arm bar then baton.” Now it’s stay well ahead of your opponent, so words to bullets in the space of even a few seconds can make perfect sense, given the scenario. Again, justification is the key. I’ve never heard a competent officer use the “I was afraid for my life” nonsense. Articulable factors have to pile one atop another until even the most ACAB juror understands that there simply was no other choice.
Shooting a vehicle? Nope. Tell a professional hunter that you’re going elk hunting with a handgun. They’ll think you’re crazy. It’s simply physics. Tonnage on the move is not going to be effected by a fingernail-sized chunk of iron. Even if you do manage to get the tire, the car will travel for quite some time before a deflation is even detected by the driver. What’s more, the car is not the threat as much as the person using the car as a weapon is the true threat. Shoot the driver. Just do it from the side if it’s moving, not from the front through the windshield… otherwise you’re already under the bumper.
The very best method of disabling a vehicle is what smart cops do… if you think you’re going to have problems with a car on the move, carry a stop-stick and slide it in front of the driver’s side rear wheel on approach before moving up to speak to the driver. Better yet have your partner do the same on the passenger side as well. No constitutional violation at all by sliding a stop-stick in front of a car tire. It’s easily removed if you conclude the encounter and let the individual drive away. No bullets, but still gets you a flat tire when the suspect tries to roll away. (For those of you who don’t know, a stop-stick is about two feet long and has three sides – filled with hollow spikes to puncture a tire and release the air in a controlled manner if run over.)
Sorry for the wall of text. I get frustrated when I still see this discussed as a potential way to ‘avoid’ deadly force encounters. If a law enforcement officer has pulled out his gun, it’s a sign that things have gone terribly wrong, and it’s at that point that the officer has already decided that he, not the other guy, is the one going home to his family. I don’t know any officer who actually wants to shoot someone. This board is full of intelligent people, so honestly ask yourself this: do you really think that a cop actually wants to be in a jury dock fighting for his career, life and family, or would he rather be sitting in his squad car, sipping a Jamba juice and watching the bikini-clad skate girls on the boardwalk?
(I get equally frustrated when I hear people ‘cock a Glock’ in the movies. It’s so annoying. There’s no external hammer to cock… THEY DON’T DO THAT! It’s why my wife won’t watch cops shows with me anymore.)