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Our View: Protecting lives trumps rash action

 

April 8, 2014



Monday’s 21-hour police standoff with an armed man got a lot of attention in Havre and across the state. More than 40,000 people viewed the online version of the story over the course of the day, and about 300 people shared the story on Facebook.

A number of people commented on the story and on Facebook — and no doubt many others had similar thoughts — that the Havre Police Department should have used force to subdue the suspect early on, with less-than-lethal weapons or by shooting to disable him. Other commenters said the officers should have used lethal force to end the 21-hour standoff.

Lethal force should always be an option of very last resort, when officers or civilians are in imminent mortal danger. Less-than-lethal techniques like rubber bullets or tasers are often useful in defusing dangerous situations while minimizing injuries. But when a loaded gun is involved, there’s always a risk that a taser or rubber bullet won’t subdue the suspect fast enough to prevent serious injuries or deaths — or worse, it could escalate a situation that might otherwise be resolved peacefully.

The Havre Police Department and other agencies did the right thing in keeping the situation calm, cordoning off the area to minimize the risk to civilians, and using patience and tact rather than rash force. Unfortunately, the man ultimately chose to take his own life, despite constant negotiation by Havre officers throughout the day.

We don’t know what was going through the man’s mind as he stood on the US Bank lawn with a gun held to his own head as officers surrounded him. We don’t know if he suffered from mental illness, or if he had a history of criminal behavior, or if it was a moment of bad judgement compounded by alcohol or drugs. We don’t know if he has a mother or a father who loves him, or friends that care for him, or children that depend on him.

But no compassionate person should want another human to die needlessly, or for a police officer to have to live with the burden of an avoidable death by his or her hand. It’s easy to armchair-quarterback and imagine that you would resolve the situation with the speed and style of a television cop — it’s more complicated when lives are on the line.

We’re proud of the Havre Police Department for taking their time, securing the area, requesting help from other agencies and waiting for a peaceful resolution. It’s tragic that the standoff ended the way it did, but law enforcement did the best they could in what turned out to be an impossible situation.

 

Reader Comments

(12)

moosemt writes:

I couldn't imagine trying to help this young man for hours and hours just to lose him in the end. I'm glad our officers are not feeling the pain of taking a life. I couldn't imagine that either. I think they did a perfect job of trying to protect the community and the young man. Bravo to you all LE. We really do have some great police officers.

stoney writes:

Isn't a news paper supposed to be just that, news. Why the opinions? reminds me of when they attacked gerry veis.

2smart4u writes:

Hey, Havreresident, I see they are looking for a deputy sheriff to hire. Since you're so smart, why don't you apply and find out how easy it is to do the job? It would be a step up in the world from the meaningless job you already have!

Bigfatdankweed writes:

I think someone should have just gave him a big old blunt to call him down

Havreresident writes:

The sniper shooters that were brought in and pointed at the man must have really instilled that calming effect you talk about. All law enforcement did was pull their guns and stand until the kid was exhausted and felt like he had no other options. Would a psychiatrist of helped to be on the scene? Anything? Nobody tried to communicate and help this man. Shame on you Havre LE

HavreRJ writes:

Well said!

Tisi writes:

I seem to think this is a situation no law enforcement person wants to find themselves in. It is better to err on the side of caution; there are millions of things that can go wrong that no training on earth can prepare for. HPD did a good job. They tried to end the situation with no bloodshed. And hard as it sounds, none of those officers have to figure out how to deal with having taken a life...

Kiki writes:

Common sense in a world where it's not so common!

stoney writes:

What a crock!

mdh writes:

My thoughts exactly.

forcryinoutloud writes:

I agree!! Thank you HDN for your constant efforts to keep Havre informed as to what was going on and HPD for your efforts to keep the situation under control. Very good job well done to you all!!

EagleII writes:

This could not have been said any better. AMEN.

 
 
 
 
 
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