Police set high bar for using deadly force

Police have some specific policies when it comes to using deadly force -- a topic that's been in the spotlight lately.

 

WHEN IS DEADLY FORCE OK?

Agency guidelines set a high threshold.

RICHMOND COUNTY: "Deadly force is justified only if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves, a third person, or the commission of a forcible felony," according to sheriff's office policy.

COLUMBIA COUNTY: Deadly force is authorized "for the sole purpose of stopping an individual's threat of death or serious physical injury."

AIKEN COUNTY: Sheriff's Lt. Troy Elwell said his department's general rule is, "We go one level above what we're being approached with."

WHAT IF VEHICLES ARE INVOLVED?

RICHMOND COUNTY: "Shooting at or from a moving vehicle shall be avoided in all instances except those which do not endanger innocent persons and are justified by unusual or exigent circumstances," the policy reads.

COLUMBIA COUNTY: Policy requires that officers not "voluntarily place themselves in front of an oncoming vehicle where use of deadly force is the probable outcome." The policy discourages firing at or from a moving vehicle, saying deputies should get out of the way.

NORTH AUGUSTA: The policy is to use "only the force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish lawful objectives." The policy also discourages firing at vehicles except in self-defense "or defense of another when the suspect is using deadly force by means other than the vehicle," it states.

OFFICIAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Ryan Powell, of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, said deadly force is typically authorized when the officer is defending himself or someone else from serious harm or possible death. He said if a vehicle is moving toward an officer or someone else "and you can't get out of the way, then that could be a deadly force situation."

He said walking in front of or behind a vehicle after a stop is not recommended but that conditions at the scene might dictate otherwise.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 823-3338 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.