Should the NYPD Even Be Issued Firearms?
Not making Tasers standard issue to officers in a city as densely populated as New York would be almost criminally negligent, and I'd like Mayor Bloomberg to explain why someone so strongly against the civilian ownership of guns hasn't taken steps to minimize the threat that handgun-armed police pose to the nine million civilians in his city.
If anything, the number of bystanders hit by police gunfire in this incident and others suggests that NYPD officers should be armed with Tasers instead of handguns. It simply isn't possible to use a handgun in many parts of the city without significant risk of hitting and killing innocent citizens downrange of the target.
Surveillance video shows that Johnson was only 8-10 feet away from officers when he pulled his .45 pistol. The range of the X26 Taser issued to many police officers is up to 35 feet. If the NYPD officers on the scene had used Tasers, they could have subdued Johnson without killing him. More importantly, they would not have shot nine citizens.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have a lot to answer for. While Kelly may be correct that the officers had "absolutely no choice" but to fire into the crowded rush hour streets of Midtown, they were restricted to that choice because of inadequate equipment and training.
There are those that decry Taser "abuse" in some isolated instances by some police departments, and those concerns are valid. That allowed, then Taser is not a non-lethal weapon but a less-lethal alternative to handguns that is of far less risk to citizens downrange of the target.
Perhaps some of the victims of the NYPD will make this point in their inevitable lawsuits against the city for their injuries.
Until the NYPD offers officers a less-lethal option, perhaps it should limit the amount of ammunition officers are allowed to carry.
It worked for Barney Fife.