This is Awful — It Cannot Be Lawful!


“State and local investigators concluded the former cop used ‘justified and reasonable’ force.”

Shall we talk? If this is a lawful shoot, something needs to be change in the areas of law, training and attitude. This is a newly released video from Greensboro, NC police from an event that happened in March of 2014. (Read the news article HERE.)

For many years I taught police self defense tactics when I was a police officer in Minneapolis. During the same period of time I taught my curriculum across the state of Minnesota for the State Crime Bureau.

I did not teach the use of a firearm in the above situation. It was talk, get out of the way, use your baton, not your sidearm.

It is no more dangerous today than it was then. You doubt this? Check the stats.

Do the citizens we are sworn to serve and protect have to experience this kind of behavior from ANY of our nation’s 17,000 police? Aren’t we better than this?

What’s going on?

But it must STOP.

[p.s. Another tragedy from the this shooting is that the involved officer resigned from department. Is there not a responsibility for leaders to see that their officers are properly trained and led in the use of deadly force? My experience is that when an officer has to take a life it not only extinguishes one life but tragically alters another.]


  1. Chief, Thank you for speaking out on this issue. As a child, I grew up respecting the authority of the police. It’s only been in the past few years (I am now 65), that I have come to view them as a very real threat to society.


  2. It was lawful if that officer reasonably believed his life or another person’s life faced a deadly threat. That officer is the only one who truly knows that. The rest of us are just watching a video.

    You bring up what I believe is the critical underlying issue. How much risk is it reasonable for us to expect an officer to face. Decades ago we did accept more risk on the job.

    For quite some time I have heard lamentations about the younger generation not being willing to sacrifice as much as we did. I agree that Gen X and Gen Y seem less willing to give more than they are paid for. I believe we need to consider the possibility that they are right and we were wrong. For the last several decades we have been willing to give less and expect more from our officers. If we want more from them we have to be willing to give more in all realms – pay and benefits, working conditions, leadership, training, equipment, etc….


  3. They are trained to be ‘Full of Fear’ to validate ‘the justification to use excessive force’.
    All they need to do is show them a good western; Killers kill while others don’t it’s that simple.
    How come certain police officers never uncase their revolvers while others can’t do their jobs without using their weapons?… that should be a red flag.


  4. Part of the problem existing and exacerbates the problems law enforcement agencies are having with the community is the thinking of many citizens; including Ms. Johnson, painting all police officers with a very broad brush; she writes: “… I have come to view them as a very real threat to society.”

    Of course most policing professionals; administrators and academes as well as clear thinking officers must look at each case on an individual basis, as I suggest to my criminal justice students. The body-cam is very shaky and unclear, but after viewing it several times I cannot agree with the family’s version of events. I believe she was clearly advancing on the officer.

    Sometime ago an officer from a Scandinavian country suggested in your blog that perhaps American policing should follow the example of his country and aim for a limb such as an arm or leg when using deadly force. Back then I suggested it was not viable because it creates a greater problem of a missed round possibly striking an uninvolved bystander. I also suggested that it would be nearly impossible to untrain officers from shooting ‘center-mass.’

    Perhaps a recommendation could be made to include lower abdomen shots as well as center-mass and head shots. To my knowledge, there are no such training programs in the United States. If an officer has time to assess the situation before employing deadly force options, the officer can consciously plan to fire his weapon in a less-critical area of the torso. Of course, if that officer had an option to use a less-than- lethal device such as an EID and did not, that’s a failure of training.


  5. “For quite some time I have heard lamentations about the younger generation not being willing to sacrifice as much as we did. I agree that Gen X and Gen Y seem less willing to give more than they are paid for. I believe we need to consider the possibility that they are right and we were wrong. For the last several decades we have been willing to give less and expect more from our officers. If we want more from them we have to be willing to give more in all realms – pay and benefits, working conditions, leadership, training, equipment, etc….”

    Dear Mr. Bowman:

    If our political leaders would spend the money and the time to invest in our cops like they do in Germany and Sweden, we not be having so much problem; however, politicians need political and financial support from cops when it comes to election time, so the police play a large part in screwing themselves and they need to take responsibility for it.

    BTW, you can’t blame the Gen X and Gen Y not willing to give their lives to Corporate America when the CEOs haven’t give anytime back in the last 36 years. They saw how the American worker has been screw over for the last several decades. They want the same kind of decent standard of living of the 1950s and 1960s that their parents and grandparents had.


  6. Is this a generational or a societal issue? How far do societal norms influence police risk assessment in these situations? Is there any research on what happens when police do not choose to use deadly force? Are they proven to be right or wrong? How prominent is the protection of life (including the life of the assailant) in your statues and operational reviews? I’m left with more questions from this though-provoking piece. Thank you.


  7. You are either with it or against it;
    The media, politicians, and POLICE are fully aware there’s an issue with some.
    However if we continue take your problems to the problem what will that do?

    It should be easy to identify problem personnel and problem officers by the way they handle themselves or deal with the events.

    Maybe it’s time to start thinking and acting outside the box.


  8. UK police would have tasered this woman or withdrawn into cover, or use CS spray. If it can work in the UK, why not in the US?


  9. Dan, the American police seem to have a tendency to taser people so many times, that they actually end up killing people.


  10. Back-up and cover would have been an excellent alternative here if if this was a suicide. But…real cops never retreat, right? The police sub-culture killed this woman and it has destroyed the officers life as well. Just my humble opinion.


    1. Good points, Pat. But why is it we (in our sometimes macho-role) forget that these shootings destroy the lives of the police officers who are put into these situations without quality training, leadership, and reasonable expectations?


  11. If police unions would help out in quality training, leadership and reasonable expectations, then police and civilian lives would not be destroy.


  12. Is it that training to control a situation is quantitatively and qualitatively different than training to control an individual? Thanks Chief!


  13. Wait…I just want to be clear that you are seriously advocating that when faced with a subject with a knife, law enforcement should engage the suspect with a baton?? I’m sure I do not have the years on the job that you do, but I have been in the military, corrections and law enforcement for a total of 21 years now and at no point during those years has it ever been suggested that an officer / soldier / corrections officer (especially when alone) approach the situation with anything other than a firearm. Preferably a rifle. I have been a defensive tactics instructor for the last 6 years and have been involved in martial arts, combatives and DT since I was a child. While I do like many of the points you have made, I have to say that as a DT instructor if one of the officers in my department tried to subdue a subject armed with a knife with a BATON he/she would at the least get a serious ear full. More likely he or she would be reprimanded for such a careless and dangerous act. Even if you get lucky and don’t get stabbed to death and manage to take the suspect into custody. Especially considering the lack of training most departments are actually willing to put into DT. Most agencies are lucky if they get more than 8 hours a YEAR and that is often combined with Taser.

    We in law enforcement have a duty to protect the public, ourselves and then the suspect, in that order. Would I have shot in that situation? I don’t know. I would like to think I may have tried the Taser first…though honestly I know from a strictly DT / use of force scenario, that is not a very smart idea. A beanbag shotgun would be more appropriate, but a baton? I’m honestly appalled at that suggestion. It is law enforcement’s duty to preserve life when possible. We are failing in our duty if you allow an emotionally disturbed person to stab you to death and then decide to maybe stab a few more people. There was at least one other person within striking distance (the mother?). Looking at this, I see a tragedy that in a perfect world should not have occurred. However it is clearly a lawful use of force and not unreasonable for the circumstances.

    One of the questions I think we should really be asking ourselves after something like this is, where is the mental health system? As a society those with mental illnesses have been pawned off onto to law enforcement to handle. The mental health system is severely broken and I believe if there were more resources out there for them, a lot less of these tragic situations would occur.


    1. I am saying that if life is sacred we will do whatever we can to save a life while protecting ours. It’s a matter of proportionality: a small individual with a pocket knife, a mentally ill woman with a sharp,object in a shopping center — do they have to die? I think we can be creative, but I have to tell you that a baton was the weapon we taught she faced with a knife. Maybe that’s old school, but I too have been in martial arts most of my adult life and taught defensive tactics statewide during my earlier years. We must be creative, beanbag shotguns and ever leg-shots like some European police train. I mean we have multiple shot handguns today and we can’t learn how to shoot “less-than-deadly? I think the public will demand better responses and tactics other than killing non-compliant mentally ill people with sharp or blunt objects. I have no problem with using deadly force when encountering persons with firearms. And yes our mental health system needs fixing, but in the meantime, police are the first responders. I appreciate your comments and willingness to dialogue on topics such as these. Be careful out there!


  14. A comment said that a bullet in a leg is likely to bounce and harm others. How does a 9mm going through the main body not present the same risk? A bullet escaping through the body still goes somewhere and has much power left in it. A leg shot in theory should have the bullet go into the ground. Concrete is not common as a ground cover where I am.


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