Shane Bunting, an officer and firearms instructor at the Joshua Police Department, talked to members of the Joshua Citizens Police Academy recently about the use of force and the decisions that police officers have to make every day.
“Technically, the use of force is the right of an individual or authority to settle conflicts or prevent certain actions by applying measures to either dissuade another party from a particular course of action, or physically intervene to stop them,” Bunting said. “That sounds like a pretty neatly defined definition. But, in reality, when you get in a situation where you have to decide whether or not you have to use deadly force, you only have a split second to decide whether to use deadly force or not. And, honestly, a lot of police officers and military personnel get shot or killed because they are hesitant to use deadly force.
“They are worried about getting sued or going to court or all the things that could possibly happen if they use deadly force,” he added. “And, in that split second, they are shot and killed.”
Bunting is a trained weapons instructor and retired military veteran who has seen his share of battles in Afganistan and other hot spots in the world.
“Fortunately, we have things like tasers and rubber bullets and things like that that we can use first before we actually have to fire a weapon at a suspect,” he said. “When you do have to draw your weapon, it really depends on a lot of other factors.”
Some of those factors, Bunting said, are the severity of the crime, the nature and extent of the threat posed by the suspect, the degree to which the suspect resists arrest or detention and any attempts by the suspect to evade arrest by flight.
“If a suspect steals a piece of bubble gum and drives away in a car, then we probably won't use force to try to detain him,” Bunting said. “But if he has just shot and killed somebody then, yes, we are going to use force to try and stop him. And that's the main thing you have to think about as a police officer. Is this person a threat to another individual or the general public? If the answer is yes, then we have to do whatever is necessary to stop that person from hurting another citizen.”
Bunting was asked about the use of pepper spray to help subdue a suspect.
“Personally, I don't like using pepper spray because it not only gets on the suspect, but it gets all over you and anyone else who happens to be around,” Bunting said. “The taser works best because it allows you to stop the suspect from doing any harm to anyone.”
Bunting said that the tasers only work for a short time, however.
“After the suspect is hit with the taser and the effects of the taser wear off, the suspect feels fine again and can keep resisting arrest,” Bunting said. “And, many times, shooting a suspect with a taser will just make him mad, so you have to be careful how you use it.”