Analyzing a Police Shooting


  • A 23 minute high-speed chase involving two passengers, later found to be unarmed.
  • 137 shots fired by police in a period of less than 30 seconds.
  • Up to 70 officers involved.

(November 29, 2012)

Put yourself in the position of being a police supervisor called upon to evaluate this kind of event. What would be the questions you would ask? What do you think happened here?

[Note: Can we can gain some understanding here from a 19th century French social psychologist, Gustave LeBon? LeBon theorized that a group of individuals act differently in a crowd because of three factors: anonymity, contagion, and suggestibility.

How might this apply to police officers engaged in this chase and shooting?



The action Police Chief Michael McGrath took in this matter:

“A review of a deadly police chase in Cleveland nearly a year ago has led to suspensions for 63 patrol officers who violated orders and department rules, the city’s police chief said Tuesday. A fleeing driver and passenger were killed when officers fired 137 shots at them in the 23-minute chase that involved five dozen cruisers and wove through residential neighborhoods before ending in gunfire. Police Chief Michael McGrath said the suspensions were the result of disciplinary hearings, and violations ranged from insubordination to driving too fast during the chase. The hearings did not involve any of the officers involved in the shooting because a county grand jury is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing among the 13 officers who fired their weapons. No weapon or shell casings were found in the fleeing car. An initial review of the chase found 75 patrol officers violated orders, but the disciplinary hearings reduced that number to 64 officers. All but one received a suspension, with the longest being 10 days, McGrath said. None of the violations was so serious it warranted termination. Some of the officers received a written warning. Police previously announced punishments for 12 supervisors stemming from the chase. One sergeant was fired. A captain and lieutenant were demoted, and nine sergeants were suspended.” (

 What are some immediate things a chief of police should do after he or she is made aware of these findings?

Post Script:

The problem continues in Cleveland. The New York Times announced today that the Justice Department may intervene. This is a growing trend throughout the county — police departments that fail to control abuse and fail to improve. Read the article HERE.


  1. How about the DA charge them with murder. Cops literally have a license to kill and very seldom get prosecuted for their crimes. The murdered are usually low income Blacks or White trash with a few Hispanics thrown in. It is going to change one of these days Men in Blue. When I was a kid (1950’s) people looked up to the police. I have nothing but contempt for these individuals now.


  2. Dane County D.A. Ozanne made determinations on 2 officer involved deaths while campaigning for A.G. and engaging in a debate with other candidates before the Wisconsin police union (WPPA) which represents 10,000 voters. This isn’t a statement on whether or not Ozanne was honest in his determinations but it is a strong suggestion that he, the “top cop” and an elected official who needs those police votes to win should not be making these determinations in the first place. This piece of the system needs to change.

    Additionally, the standard of objective reasonableness that chiefs use to determine whether or not deadly force was necessary needs to change. This standard is far too subjective to be an appropriate tool in determining whether or not a human deserved to die. It’s efficacy relies too solely on the integrity and honestly of the chief, all of the detectives and the officers involved. Detectives don’t deliver raw info to the chief or D.A., they shape and package it. For the most part, in the state of WI for the past 127 years, if an officer claimed they feared for their life, their actions were found objectively reasonable. To quote former Madison Officer Heimsness (Walter) directly off the Isthmus Forum, whether or not you can legally shoot someone “ depends on whether or not you were able to articulate how you reasonably believed your or another’s life was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.” Too much weight is placed on whether a chief feels that officer is able to articulate well rather than witness statements or any sort of testing or proof that the officer involved was actually fit for duty and used good judgement.

    It appears that chief’s often look to see how the witness statements and the victims history can corroborate with the officer’s story rather than placing equal weight on all stories and piecing them together, with both the officer and victims histories taken into consideration.


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