• Why police shoot to kill, not to wound

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    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    ONE of the ideas advanced by some people is that our policemen under President Duterte’s administration have become so ruthless that they shoot illegal drug suspects to kill, when they should just fire their guns to disable or wound them.

    I am surprised that the idea seems to have gained some traction. In a recent conversation with former President Fidel Ramos, a soldier most of his life and the founder of the Army Special Forces, he said that he strongly suggested to Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa that he issue an order to all policemen to aim their guns at criminals’ legs, and shoot only to disable.

    That seems to be a logical suggestion. The problem is that reality doesn’t work that way.

    Police do shoot accurately only at criminals’ hands (and even their guns) or at their legs—but only in the movies.

    If you’ve ever fired a gun, you’d realize that it’s so different from the movies, that you can even miss a man just across the room.

    When I had to train for security purposes how to use a gun when I was in government, the instructor in combat shooting would always shout at us never ever to fire only once, but to shoot three times in rapid succession.

    The reason is obvious: Just a few millimeters’ deviation of the gun muzzle from the target, which almost always happens when you improperly pull (instead of squeeze) the trigger, and you miss your opponent, who of course would be defending himself to kill you, either with his own gun, or even just a knife. Your chances obviously of stopping your opponent increases when it’s second nature to fire the gun thrice, rather than just once.

    So, training in combat shooting, which all policemen go through, never ever involves shooting at the arms or even the legs, which are almost always moving targets, compared to the torso, the center of which policemen are trained to aim at. Target-practice figures never include the legs but only the torso to just after the crotch, which is also a target.

    SHOOTING TARGET: Why do you think legs aren’t included, and the bullseye is in the torso’s center?

    SHOOTING TARGET: Why do you think legs aren’t included, and the bullseye is in the torso’s center?

    This shoot-just-to-wound issue isn’t new, and had been widely debated in a few US cities, after an uproar over police fatally shooting a suspected criminal, who turned out to be unarmed. A bill was filed in New York in 2005, requiring police to “shoot-to-wound,” calleda “minimum force” bill. This would require officers to “shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg” and to use firearms “with the intent to stop, rather than kill.” The bill was withdrawn, after it was scientifically shown to be impossible to implement.

    Force Science Institute
    A key study by the Force Science Institute—a respected institute that scientifically studies combat situations— revealed some of the practical problems with a shoot-to-wound policy. Some of these:

    • “Hands and arms can be the fastest-moving body parts. For example, an average suspect can move his hand and forearm across his body to a 90-degree angle in 12/100 of a second. He can move his hand from his hip to shoulder height in 18/100 of a second. The average officer pulling the trigger as fast as he can on a Glock, one of the fastest-cycling semi-autos, requires 1/4 second to discharge each round. There is no way an officer can react, track, shoot and reliably hit a threatening suspect’s forearm or a weapon in a suspect’s hand in the time spans involved.

    • “Even if the suspect held his weapon arm steady for half a second or more, an accurate hit would be highly unlikely, and in police shootings the suspect and his weapon are seldom stationary. Plus, the officer himself may be moving as he shoots.

    • “The upper arms move more slowly than the lower arms and hands. But shooting at the upper arms, there’s a greater chance you’re going to hit the suspect’s brachial artery or center mass, areas with a high probability of fatality. So where does shooting only to wound come in when even areas considered by some to be ‘safe’ from fatality risk could in fact carry the same level of risk as targeting center mass?

    • “Legs tend initially to move slower than arms and to maintain more static positions. However, areas of the lower trunk and upper thigh are rich with vascularity. A suspect who’s hit there can bleed out in seconds if one of the major arteries is severed, so again shooting just to wound may not result in just wounding.

    • “An officer’s survival instinct may exert an overpowering influence on target selection. If your life is threatened you’re going to go for the surer thing first and worry about your assailant’s life being saved second. If a guy is running at me with a blade, the last thing I’m going to be thinking is, ‘I’m going to shoot him in the arm’. Hence, shooting for center mass is the psychological default.

    • “Poor shot placement is bound to increase. Even when officers are trying to shoot center mass, they often miss. Hitting an arm or a leg on a moving suspect with surgical precision will be virtually impossible.”

    Of course, we’re barking at the wrong tree if the real problem is that our policemen actually have been executing unarmed suspected criminals, as in the case of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa. The police fantastically claimed that Espinosa had a gun in his cell, which he fired against the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group officers serving a search warrant— on his jail cell run by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

    Instead of this fantasy of requiring police to shoot to wound only, we as a civilized nation have to come up with practical suggestions that could prevent police from undertaking summary executions of criminal suspects. Require every raiding party –-whose operations after all are planned days in advance — to have a non-policeman record through video such encounters? Require as much as they are available, media to cover such raids?

    Perhaps I’m dreaming. But I don’t think Duterte will call back his dogs of war (vs drugs) during his term. We just have to come up, as a civilized nation, with the means to restrain them from slaughtering unarmed Filipinos, even if involved in illegal drugs.

    Unethical
    While the New York Times photo essay by Daniel Berehulak has drawn raves as an excellent piece of photo-journalism, it’s an example of how journalists often forget that they’re human beings.

    If Berehulak was so aghast that the police have been slaughtering Filipinos “like animals,” as his piece was entitled, why didn’t he document exactly what police units—and what were the names of the policemen–were involved in the 57 homicide scenes he photographed? This could have helped the Commission on Human Rights or even the justice department in their investigation of these cases. Or at least just shame them.

    “What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to ‘slaughter them all’,” he even wrote to caption his photo essay. But he didn’t even bother to try getting the names of those police officers.

    Berehulak would likely win journalism awards with his photo essay. He has been plainly unethical though. He seems to think that his sole responsibility was to photograph the killing, not to protest them as a human being, which he could have done by identifying the police he claimed did the summary shootings. Professional photographers would even conclude that he used camera filters—obviously a red one in that haunting photo of a coffin with a child crying beside it—to make the scenes appear so horrible.

    If Berehulak had covered the Maguindanao massacre that took the lives of 57 human beings, he would have come up with a gory photo essay, but without mentioning at all who were the suspected perpetrators and masterminds.

    tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
    FB: Bobi Tiglao and Rigoberto Tiglao
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    18 Comments

    1. Mr Tiglao,

      The term is “SHOOT TO STOP”, NOT shoot to kill. How does this sound? A cop files a report “I SHOT THE SUSPECT TO KILL HIM”. So then, the cop has in his/her mind to kill or looking for someone to kill when effecting an arrest?

      Here in the US, the police and the military are taught to shoot CENTER MASS to STOP the threat. They are trained to double tap, that is to shoot TWICE in quick succession to increase the probability of hitting the target.

      Tabako Ramos must be senile. As a general, he should know better of police procedures. By his statement “shoot to disable”, he seems ignorant on how actual shootings are. Could it be Tabako’s suspects were not moving when he fired his weapon? Of could it be that Tabako is a big fan of Filipino action movies?

    2. Drugs Are Killing More Americans Than Road Crashes
      by Tyler Durden Nov 20, 2016 10:30 PM

      So much for the so-called ‘war on drugs’… The United States has been gripped by a heroin and opiate epidemic with user numbers recently hitting a 20 year high.
      In 2014, the number of U.S. heroin users passed the million mark with deaths from overdoses rising steeply. And as Statista’s Niall McCarthy writes, drugs are now killing substantially more Americans every year than car crashes.
      In 2004, 30,711 deaths were drug related compared to 42,836 in
      motor vehicle accidents. A decade later, drug-induced deaths reached
      49,714 while road crash deaths fell to 32,675.

      You will find more statistics at Statista

      As well as the cheap suppy of heroin, legistlation aimed at eliminating prescription opioid abuse has actually added to the problem. It involved changing the texture of the pills to make them more difficult to crush and inject into the bloodstream. That move made people shift over to heroin in droves. New and deadlier drugs such as Fentanyl are also adding to the overdose epidemic. 50 times more potent than heroin, Fentanyl has created an overdose spike in several north-eastern states and has been named as the drug that killed pop singer Prince earlier this year.

    3. VERY POOR TOPIC….this, all in the gov knows. You run out of idea Mr Tiglao. Public has no benefit from shooting on arm or leg…if they survive they can always come back again & again. Even they are wounded in their leg they can still fired back & too dangerous, police might be the one end up to cemetery.

    4. The Great Defiant on

      or we can consider the famous recommendations of DE5 because she loves the pusher, user and druglord very much that instead of shooting, all the police should do is to announce their presence by megaphone and fire a warning shoot before apprehension…

      you know, if you make a movie like that, baka malaki pa benta ng lugaw ni Leni.

      also, the famous suggestions of Hontivirus to rehabilitate the druglords?

      what a world…..

    5. The Great Defiant on

      at bakit naman makinig si Bato kay Tabako?
      wala naman alam si Tabako kundi ang lumundag?
      lumundag sa EDSA at eroplano?

      okey, in fairness, why not allow Tabako to demonstrate his idea in the real life situation or in actual scene?

    6. I don’t understand why it’s hard for the yellows or human rights advocates (kuno) to understand the simple logic that drug addicts are irrational and can do harm when threatened with arrest when caught in the act of pushing or using shabu.The police have to shoot to whom it may concern. It’s not like eating fried chicken where we can choose what to pick, the legs or breast or what. It’s either the resisting durugistas or the policeman who gets the bullet first. There is no human rights or lefts to talk about when drug addicts rape, kill, do crimes with impunity. It’s the living or the dead that count. That is why we simple people support DU30 because we can walk the meanest street safely now to live another day, because drug addicts have to die than us.

    7. Wounding the suspect with deadly weapons is only in the tv shows/movies, the statement “That seems to be a logical suggestion. The problem is that reality doesn’t work that way” is correct.
      1. Some of the PNP does not have firearms (refer to Manila Mayor Estrada purchasing firearms for PNP).
      2. PNP cartridges (bala) supply is not sufficiently provided.
      3. Actual firearms discharge training is inadequate. Mandatory firearm discharge training should be carried out every six months.
      4. The Government (Legislative branch) should provide or increase the budget for PNP firearms, ammunition and training including basic criminal law.

    8. RP cops shoot to kill for two reasons, the dirty cop do it to cover their corruption to eliminate asset liabilities that could witnesses against them, while clean cops do it to avoid the hassle of appearing in court which can drag on for years, or worse, result in counter-charges against them.

      That’s what happened to my brother in law, a BJMP employee who shot a knife wielding amok in the hands and shoulder to incapacitate him, the amok filed counter charges of attempted murder and found a padrino in the Solicitors Generals Office OSG to help lawyer. Why OSG would accept a private complainant against a government employee, sounds irregular since are not they usually the gov’t defender. Anyway my brother appealed all the way to the supreme court but with the OSG as the backer of this amok who turned the tables on him. All clear evidence of my brother in law was disregarded, he tried to neutralize this threat to the community and what did he get in return for his public service, a sentenced from 8 to 12 years.

      When my brother in law tells his hard luck story, cops and guards listening all have the same refrain, “you should have just killed him.”

      The RP criminal justice system just sucks.

    9. I totally agree with your article, except for the red filter. It might have been a red external light. Please notice the blue curtain behind the young man.

    10. Mr. Tiglao is right that this is the wrong tree to bark at. Shoot to kill is a symptom of a larger problem. Why is it that the vast majority of police drug war victims are the poorest of the poor, not the drug king-pins who are making all the money? And why are police reports of those killings so suspiciously similar? The police have a strong motive to plant evidence after a killing, which the following Reuters article strongly suggests is happening. There is at least the appearance of police collusion and conspiracy in many of these murders, and the statistics back that up.

      Mr. Tiglao criticizes the New York Times photo essay by Daniel Berehulak for failing to aid the Commission on Human Rights. So, perhaps he would be interested in the recent in-depth analysis by Reuters on the same subject in this article, which is more helpful:

      “Police rack up an almost perfectly deadly record in Philippine drug war”
      http :// www. reuters. com/investigates/special-report/philippines-duterte-police/

      excerpts: “Reuters reviewed 42 drug-related shooting incidents involving the police in the Manila region covered by its journalists, as well as another 9 cases investigated in the same area by the government-funded Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR). In these combined 51 cases, police officers killed a total of 100 suspects and wounded just three. … In the Philippine cases examined by Reuters and CHR, the police killed 97 percent of those they shot – 33 dead for every person wounded. … The figures pose a powerful challenge to the official narrative that the Philippines police are only killing drug suspects in self-defense. These statistics and other evidence amassed by Reuters point in the other direction: that police are pro-actively gunning down suspects. … Further stretching the plausibility of official statements, a review of police reports shows that officers often give remarkably similar accounts each time a suspect is shot dead. … Found on the victim’s corpse is a .38 caliber revolver, often without a serial number, and plastic sachets of what police reports call “a white crystalline substance suspected to be shabu.”

      “Police crime-scene investigations and autopsies, meanwhile, are opaque and perfunctory. CHR investigators say that under Duterte they have had to subpoena police forensics units to get access to full autopsies and forensic reports. The secretiveness has fueled suspicion among bereaved families and human rights monitors that guns and drugs are planted on suspects at crime scenes.”

    11. The line that say “Innocent until Proven guilty” was never respected just like during Marshall Law. To eliminate court
      proceeding, suspects were ‘Salvaged” (local word for killing}. Who has the power to stop this culture? Of course the
      one in authority.

    12. Jose A. Oliveros on

      The following is an excerpt from a Supreme Court decision on self-defense for the guidance of our policemen who have to make split-second decision when face to face or confronted with an armed adversary determined to fight it out with them. This is also for the enlightenment of those who are too quick to condemn or criticize policemen who are too fast on the draw:
      The law on self-defense embodied in any penal system in the civilized world finds justification in man’s natural instinct to protect, repel, and save his person or rights from impending danger or peril; it is based on that impulse of self-preservation born to man and part of his nature as a human being. Thus, in the words of the Romans of ancient history: Quod quisque ob tutelam corporis sui fecerit, jure suo fecisse existimetur. To the Classicists in penal law, lawful defense is grounded on the impossibility on the part of the State to avoid a present unjust aggression and protect a person unlawfully attacked, and therefore it is inconceivable for the State to require that the innocent succumb to an unlawful aggression without resistance; while to the Positivists, lawful defense is an exercise of a right, an act of social justice done to repel the attack of an aggressor.
      xxx
      What this Court expressed in the case of People v. Lara, 1925, 48 Phil. 153, 160, is very true and applicable to the situation now before Us, and We quote:
      “It should be borne in mind that in emergencies of this kind human nature does not act upon processes of formal reason but in obedience to the instinct of self-preservation; and when it is apparent, as in this case, that a person has reasonably acted upon this instinct, it is the duty of the courts to sanction the act and to hold the actor irresponsible in law for the consequences.”
      Equally relevant is the time-honored principle: Necessitas Non habet legem. Necessity knows no law. (People v. Boholst-Caballero, [G.R. No. L-23249.

    13. Mr. Tiglao, to answer your question on why Mr Berehulak failed to mention the perpetrators is because the Liberal media in the states protects the muslim terrorist. They perceive them as freedom fighters and not to anger them, so they won’t harm them.