9.18.2012

Today’s Investigative Special Report September 18, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “When A Law Enforcement Officer Accidently Kills A Child – How Does The Community Resolve The Tragedy – Including The Officer?”



By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
Forensic Investigator – Senior Author
Accidents do occur in almost every aspect of life. Maybe the accident was unavoidable or the circumstances demonstrate the incident couldn’t be avoided. When someone is injured or killed, especially a child, and the person who caused the injury or death is a law enforcement officer, how does the community as well as the officer deal with the tragedy?
There are no fast and easy answers or rules to how the community will respond. Inside the community is a mother and father who have the responsibility of taking care of their child from harm. The guilt associated with their child being injured or the death of the child is something which they may never be able to deal with emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically.
The law enforcement officer has a multitude of considerations when dealing with an accident involving a child. Each individual handles traumatic events in varies ways, no two people are alike and just because you are a law enforcement officer, doesn’t mean you won’t be traumatized if you cause a child to be injured or killed.
Shootings – Barricade Situations
It isn’t that uncommon for a man to barricade himself in his home due to the stresses which families and individuals are dealing with when it comes to financial situations, relationships, and so forth. Drugs and alcohol become pacifiers for dysfunctional situations and adults who can’t handle the stress of a declining life style. Then there is a mental breakdown and the man grabs his guns and begins shooting. Either because he is crying out for assistance, wants to harm a specific family member, generally is wife, or his entire family, or himself.
The police are called by neighbors hearing the gunshots and the residence where the perpetrator is located is surrounded by law enforcement officers. If children are involved the first concern is taking the child out of the ‘risk’ factor. It is a possibility that the conduct of the perpetrator may bring harm or death to the child. Law enforcement has to decide how they will approach getting the child out of the residence unharmed.
If the plan to remove the child from the residence is not properly executed by law enforcement this execution may cause the child to be injured or killed. Hostage negotiators play a major role in minimizing the risk the perpetrator has placed the child in.  If the negotiations fail to calm the situations, law enforcement has to decide if they will have to execute a plan where they move into the residence immediately, because the odds are the perpetrator may bring harm to the other individuals in the home.
During the process of taking control of the situation it is a possibility that a child or children may become a casualty when law enforcement enters the residence. Although this is generally not the case, the problem which surrounds shooting incidences, hostage situations, and other gunman situations children may be harmed or injured.
Accidents
Probably the highest risk to children comes from law enforcement officials responding to a call. Children can be struck by the police cruiser in several situations. First, the police cruiser may strike the child as they cross the street when the police cruiser is running code three i.e. lights and sirens, but the child doesn’t hear the sirens. Second, the police cruiser strikes another vehicle while responding to a call injuring or killing the child; these accidents either occur at intersections or when the police officer tries to maneuver around traffic to get to the call they are responding to. Three, there are other traffic situations where inexperienced young drivers become entangled in a police action and doesn’t have the education or experience on what to do, which ultimately causes injury or death.
Partying
Situations where children are at a party generally where drugs and alcohol are involved become injured or killed when police try to disperse them i.e. asking them to leave. Today’s youth have little respect for law enforcement officers and when there are a significant amount of individuals at the party, there is a boast in feeling strong and powerful and that law enforcement can’t tell them what to do. Violence may occur, and children are injured or killed.
Occupied Movement
The numerous Occupied Movements has become more of a fad, then accomplishing anything meaningful. Unfortunately, children who want to be a part of something become involved in trying to vandalize property, assault innocent people, and/or attack and assault law enforcement officers. There have been numerous injuries and several deaths associated with this movement.
Other
There are other situations where children become involved or become entangled dealing with law enforcement. The problem is children don’t see the danger which becomes part of the incident and due to their ignorance and nativity they are injured or killed. Innocence can cause situations where children are injured or killed.
Response By The Community
Most situations are covered by the media when a situation involves a child being injured or killed. Depending upon the manner in which the child was injured or killed will depend upon how the community responds. Before the community picks sides or makes it an us against them mentality people need to review the facts and not jump to conclusions which may be hyped due to the selling of gloried news stories and not the true facts which would explain what occurred.
Law enforcement officers are constantly under the scrutiny of their community, which they should be. However, the community must be positive when the officer does something positive and constructive when it is possible the officer may have done something wrong.
Resolution To Injuries And Death
There is no way to resolve children and law enforcement being involved in specific situations. Law enforcement does not create the barricaded man with the gun situation. Law enforcement drive millions of miles each year nationwide and the odds are against officers who have to respond to serious situations where lives are on the line. The other situations are for the most part created by children who intentionally become involved in scenarios where they have no business placing themselves into. However, this doesn’t give anyone the right to injure or kill them.
Parental control and guidance is so important when it comes to educating their children about how not to become involved in potential violent situations where the child can be injured or killed. The expectation that children on their own, will consider and figure out what are dangerous and non-dangerous situations is simply incompetence.
It is important the community monitors how their law enforcement agency and officers present themselves and their conduct in any and all situations. However, the community needs to realize that accidents do happen. That most of the accidents which occurred were unforeseeable and there was no intent by a law enforcement officer to injure or kill a child.
Each community should establish committees and programs to educate not only children but their law enforcement agencies and officers about those situations which can cause an injury or death. An incident where a child is accidently injured or killed should never become the community versus their law enforcement agency or officers.
Law enforcement officers make mistakes and there are many responses psychologically and physiologically that the officer will deal with. These responses do not justify the officer’s actions at the time of the incident, especially if his competence and intelligence would have avoided the accident occurring. However, the parent who loses their child through an unintentional incident will lie heavily upon an officer who was attempting to do their job, save another life, not take one away.
As stated earlier in this article there are no easy answers to accidents which occur and a child is injured or killed. There are methods and techniques which can possibly minimize the type of accidents which occur. Providing education and experience seem to be the common sensical approach which needs to be conveyed to all of those who live and work in the community.

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