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Officers 'shoot to stop,' not 'shoot to kill,' police say

From Casey Grove in Anchorage --

Police Chief Mark Mew, responding to ongoing criticism of police policies on the use of lethal force, said today the policy has been incorrectly described.

Critics, including online commenters, have called it a "shoot to kill" policy. That's incorrect, Mew says. It is actually more akin to a "shoot to stop" policy, he wrote in a statement issued Tuesday and pasted below.

"It is true these kinds of shots often have fatal results, but death is not the intended outcome," Mew said.

The police chief's statement follows two fatal shootings by Anchorage officers in less than a month's time and a protest Saturday that included about 150 people marching past police headquarters and chanting, "We want justice!"

An officer who shot Shane Tasi, a 26-year-old carrying a long stick June 9, was cleared of wrongdoing by state prosecutors. The fatal, officer-involved shooting of Harry Smith, a 59-year-old brandishing a BB gun July 1, remains under investigation.

City and police officials, including Mew, have indicated they're interested in getting funding for more nonlethal weapons and tactics. But there are no plans to change officer training on the use of firearms in violent situations, the city says.

What do you think about the police department's policy? Comment below.

Here's Chief Mew's statement:

Subject: Clarification of APD Policy & Procedure

The Anchorage Police Department wants to clarify two points that may have been misunderstood or perhaps under appreciated by the media, thus inviting repeated inaccurate statements by news consumers commenting though the media. These are significant issues, and we want the public to understand them clearly.

The police department does not have a “shoot to kill policy.” By law and APD policy deadly force can only be applied when there is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death. Police are to shoot only under those circumstances, and when they do so it is with the purpose of instantly ending the attack. You could call it a “shoot to stop policy.” It is true these kinds of shots often have fatal results, but death is not the intended outcome. This response is standard throughout the country. What the police department has said is that it will not loosen its policy to allow officers to try to wound, disable, or disarm suspects by firing lethal bullets at extremities, at peripheral body parts, or at weapons. Deciding not to make such a proposed change does not mean the APD shoots to kill.

The APD does not decide on the legality or illegality of a police shooting (or fatal use of force). That determination is made by the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals (OSPA), a subdivision of the State of Alaska Attorney General’s Office. APD detectives collect evidence under OSPA’s guidance, and turn that information over to OSPA. OSPA also collects evidence from other state sources, such as the Crime Lab and the Medical Examiner’s Office. In some cases OSPA may conduct investigative activities of its own. After a review of all evidence, and after a thorough legal analysis, OSPA will issue findings on the legality or illegality of the force used (e.g. whether or not criminal charges will be filed). In other words, it is the state—not the city—that determines such matters.

There is much public dialog right now about police use of lethal and less lethal force. This discussion is extremely important to our community. Particularly when emotions are running high, it is crucial that the discourse centers around facts, not misinformation.

Anchorage Police Department
Chief Mark Mew

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