After Times Square Shooting, Focus Shifts to Preventing Violent Confrontations

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NYPD in Times Square (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding man in Times Square on Saturday has resulted in little political fallout. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said the shooting appeared to be justified and by the book. Instead, the focus has been on looking ahead to a time when such violent outcomes can be reduced in frequency, or avoided altogether.

Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who currently teaches at John Jay College, said the NYPD needs to implement "21st century" solutions to such confrontations.

"We’re still using bullets to stop people in situations like this," O'Donnell said. "It’s a crying shame that we’ve not been able to use some of the technologies that are being experimented with in war zones and elsewhere to allow for a non-lethal end to this."

O'Donnell pointed to the use of "goo guns," which are meant to immobilize people by firing sticky foam at them, as one such 21st century alternative. But such technology would suggest an increased investment for the NYPD at a time when the department has been tightening its budget.

Retired officer Joe Guagliardo defended the NYPD's shooting of Darrius Kennedy, but thinks the department has been compromised by a lack of manpower on the streets.

If multiple officers had collectively confronted the "one little pot-smoker," he argued, rather than a single officer, Kennedy would've been much less likely to have spun out of control.

Kennedy had been subjected to psychiatric evaluation in the past, according to the police. On Saturday, the NYPD called for backup from its Emergency Services Unit, which is trained to handle unstable suspects, but they didn't arrive on the scene until after officers shot Kennedy.

Ron Honberg, the director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, pointed out one system that has gained traction in recent years. Police departments in hundreds of other cities have adopted an approach known as CIT, or Crisis Intervention Team, which places a much greater emphasis on dealing with people with mental illness by going through simulated confrontations, and regularly talking to the families of emotionally disturbed persons. That's especially important, Honberg said, when mental health budgets are being cut.

"We ask more and more our law enforcement officers to be the first-line responders," Honberg noted. “So if that's the role they're going to take, they need to be prepared."



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Comments [12]


"the focus has been on looking ahead to a time when such violent outcomes can be reduced in frequency, or avoided altogether." That hasn't been the case in human history for thousands of years and never will. There is evil in the world - simple and plain. This is not some guy who was standing around minding his business and was shot. This was a violent encounter. The article seems to suggest that they should have waited until the Emergency Services Unit arrived. And what until then? Just stand there and hope nothing happens. Even police departments with Taser guns have had to use lethal means because the Taser doesn't always stop them. What should they have done - wait until the guy actually started stabbing ppl?? Mental illness is not an excuse for crime. If that's the case you should let a lot of ppl out of prison. Anyone who can or does harm another person could be considered mentally ill.
Death is always a tragedy... but let's not pretend that all death (even violent) is preventable.

Aug. 16 2012 08:22 AM
East End from New York City

What makes you think that the police "want" to kill these people. This man was clearly unstable and was wielding a knife that any person in their right mind would fear. The police have a responsibility to maintain order and help guarantee the safety of the public. A lunatic holding Rambo's man-hunting knife on a city street, filled with innocent bystanders, doesn't sound like a situation I'd want to be anywhere near, never mind given the responsibility to diffuse. Put yourself in their shoes: eliminate the threat, or allow this guy the opportunity to kill someone. And as for all police officers carrying tasers, or weapons with less than lethal capabilities, these things cost money. Higher government expenditure translates to higher taxes. It sounds to me that no matter what, the police can't win. Budgets are tight and equipment is limited because we don't want to pay for it. My guess is that 95% of the people who write these scathing conspiracy theories (John Adams from Mexico) regarding police corruption and violence wouldn't want higher taxes to pay for less than lethal weapons or ammunition....I will also go a step further and say that the same 95% would have pulled the trigger if they were within 20 feet of a deranged psychopath with a criminal record and a 13" knife.

Aug. 14 2012 06:44 PM
d from Fairfax, VA

Anyone that says the police should have or could have used other means to stop the guy needs to just shut the hell up. Sitting in their cubical and criticizing is much different than being on the scene. Law enforcement officers are not ninjas with advanced hand to hand special forces combat skills. They are ordinary people doing a job with families. They will not risk their lives for a deranged knife weilding mental case. Would you? And before you say anything about, "that's what they get paid for," need to realize they don't get paid squat. They don't get special goo-gun that tie up suspects and not everyone gets a Taser. I average person with a knife can run 21 feet in 1.5 sec. If the suspect was running away from the cops and an innocent person walked out in his path and now he has a hostage with a knife at their throat? The cops shouldn't have chased him? Entitled sheltered people that never put themselves in harms way always have an unrealistic opinion about how the police can do their jobs better. I bet if the suspect got hold of a innocent bystander and slit their throats and the cops didn't shoot them, they'd say, "well why didn't the cops shoot the guy?!"

Aug. 14 2012 03:23 PM
Fair to ask why

What's hard to understand is that there is little outcry. Is it that the news is soft-pedaled at best? I learned about it first in a European paper: to many of those looking from outside, it looks pathetic. Not here, though. There is a congenial spin here, that to me would seem like asking people to swallow a metal spring. If what appears on people's cellphone videos from Saturday's event shows what NYPD is trained to do, and this exemplifies procedure that they can look to proudly, and happily "improve upon", then those of us who see a single frightened man being chased and hunted down must be crazy. To the man who questions why the police are not equipped with tasers, Ditto! Then let's pretend that this was one unfortunate occasion where they forgot their tasers - don't they know how to immobilize a man with a joint and a kitchen knife without riddling him to death with bullets? New Yorkers can of course appreciate and very much desire that the police are there to protect the public. One can understand that the police are also redblooded men and women, capable themselves of feeling terror, even panic, as well as rage - but they are widely advertised as a peerlessly trained force. Assuming the whole bunch of them couldn't risk hand-to-hand combat with the scared, unstable man, what ever happened to a judiciously aimed bullet below the knees, for the public good? Maybe that would be something NYPD could pound its chest over and be proud of.

Aug. 14 2012 01:14 PM
tom LI

Training...its all about training. Cops need longer time in school, learning in classrooms and scripted life-like scenarios Modern crowd/people control. Along with - as mentioned in the article - a serious investigation and trials of modern technology that are more accessible to cops on the street. Not just buying the hot new cop toy, that Wow'd them at the last convention, and which are usually overpriced and bought under questionable bidding processes...

We want modern cops for a modern world, we need modern training...not old school, tough cop training,.

Aug. 14 2012 12:36 PM
Corin Wenger from New York

No one can state objectively whether the shooting is "justified" and "by the book." Even the terms of "justified" and "by the book" show a sickening absence of compassion for the person and their community.

Every time that someone with a mental illness is killed by the NYPD, and Kelly/Bloomberg responds with such a complacent comment that shows that they have taken no responsibility for the killing, it shows that New York is still pretty much in the dark ages as to how the police department treats mental illness.

Aug. 14 2012 11:50 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

"Justified and by the book?" How is it that escaped animals from zoos can be hit with a tranquilizer gun to stop any danger they might cause to humans, yet the NYPD has so little respect for actual human life (and possibly hurting innocent bystanders with stray bullets) that they have to shoot to kill a guy wielding a knife? This is absurd, and has been for a while. The NYPD needs to stop killing people who pose a "threat," especially when they get it terribly wrong.

Aug. 14 2012 11:44 AM
dogmommy2012 from Cincinnati, OH

I was in Times Square when this unfortunate situation happened. In fact, we were probably about 1-1/2 minutes away and had just walked past the area. Suddenly, several police cars blazed past us. I saw a young female officer with the most horrified look on her face running toward the scene.

The square was packed with innocent people and a lot of little kids who could have been killed. The guy brought a knife with him showing he had bad intentions and from what I've read, he had a record of similar acts of violence. It's easy to blame the police, but I do not believe for a minute that they sought out to legally kill an undesirable. They did what they had to - save their own and innocent bystanders' lives.

Aug. 14 2012 11:20 AM
Tara from NYC

I don't know the exact scenario that occurred here, so I am reluctant to definitively condemn the officers actions. However, it is outrageous to me that in NYC the police are not equipped with other non-lethal stop methods aside from pepper spray!

Aug. 14 2012 10:58 AM

To "Bobby . . . "
Does the "He was holding a knife, not a gun . . . " indicate some sympathy with a call for registering the sales of all knives or the banning of "long knives" from sale to unlicensed persons?

Aug. 14 2012 10:38 AM
John Adams from Hermosillo, Mexico

That the police are claiming that they weren't equipped with Tasers, and were waiting for the arrival of a cop with a Taser, is probably a lie. If it's true, though, then the question is how come they aren't ordinarily carrying Tasers? The answer is very clear. It's their policy to kill "undesirables" whenever the legal opportunity arises.

The police were enjoying this, and moments before the extrajudicial execution, several police cars, sirens blaring, pulled up. Obviously this was done to block the view of the execution from the cellphone cameras. And it worked.

As the particularly arrogant NYC bourgeoisie sees it, they "want their city back," and intend to keep the face-lifted Times Square area family safe and family fun for those white visitors from Nebraska who spend lots of money dining and taking-in the entertainment.As always, the one thing that really matters is "the bottom line." Crime's really bad for business.

Aug. 14 2012 09:27 AM
Bobby from nyc

Was this not an execution? The officers could not or would not avoid the victim with the many blocks did he travel? Were the officers cornered like "Rats" and that is why the fired 12 shots at a "deranged man"? He was holding a knife, not a gun, and was not attempting to throw it, so, why did they how to shoot him dead. And do they get any medals or as Rudy would say, "Good Shoot!!"

Aug. 14 2012 08:24 AM

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