ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Police Department is looking at whether more training is necessary after an off-duty officer was wounded by “friendly fire” from a fellow officer looking for suspects.
The department is forming a committee to decide how to best train officers for such encounters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2tTRVzP ) reported.
Police said they were chasing suspects inside a stolen car when it crashed June 21. The off-duty officer came out of his home after hearing the crash when an officer just arriving at the scene allegedly shot him in the elbow, thinking he was a suspect.
Interim Chief Lawrence O’Toole said an investigation is ongoing.
Members of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, the Ethical Society of Police and the Leadership Organization are part of the department’s committee, according to a statement released by police.
Little research nationally has been done on the topic of friendly fire because its rarity makes it difficult to come up with meaningful conclusions or suggest best practices, said David Klinger, a criminologist with the University of Missouri-St. Louis who specializes in use-of-force issues.
The National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial website lists about 200 friendly-fire deaths. Nearly 30 of those were from mistaken identity, with others occurring from things such as crossfire or training accidents.
There are no national standards on how off-duty officers should take action and uniformed officers should conduct themselves when confronted by off-duty counterparts. Some departments expect officers to consider themselves on-duty at all times, while others limit the expectations to emergencies.
In St. Louis County, off-duty officers are told to call 911 if possible before responding to a problem so that dispatchers can alert uniformed officers of their presence. Off-duty officers are also told to call uniformed officers to handle minor disturbances that happen in their presence and to limit their responses to emergency situations only.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com