MADISON, Wis. – Confusing a handgun for a Taser is a deadly mistake, as shown in body camera footage depicting a Minnesota police officer shooting and killing Daunte Wright Sunday.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner called Wright’s death a homicide in the autopsy report released Monday evening.
Brian Landers, a law enforcement veteran, consultant and longtime educator and trainer called the footage “disturbing.”
“First off, as a human being you don’t like to see law enforcement use deadly force,” Landers said. “There’s no evidence right now to believe this officer acted maliciously, but it definitely appears to be a grave issue in training.”
Landers spent 19 years in law enforcement himself, and now owns Landers CRT (Consulting, Research, Testimony).
He explained that Taser International offers its own training, and usually each state has its own version of general use-of-force training for electronic control devices, or Tasers.
“All of the training is uniform as far as making sure the device is not on the weapon’s side of the officer, so they would be trained that it would be placed on their opposite side of their duty belt,” he said.
Tasers are often yellow and purposefully designed to look and feel different than a firearm.
“Having a Taser in your hand is not the same feeling as having a firearm in your hand. A fully loaded firearm is probably two to three times heavier than a Taser,” Landers said. “All those are intentionally designed to help distinguish under stress the difference between an officer drawing a Taser and a firearm.”
The Brooklyn Center police chief referred to the officer who shot Wright as “very senior” on Monday. Later in the night, the officer was identified as Kim Potter, the president of the Brooklyn Center Police Officer’s Association.
“That officer still has to, in a fraction of a second, has to consider, ‘Is this the exact right tool to use?’” Landers said. “If they self-check that, that is a good time to also recognize what device they’re about to use.”
Landers said it seems reasonable for the officer to have used a Taser in that situation
“Would more training help?” Landers said. “It certainly wouldn’t have hurt the situation.”
He advocates for more mandatory use-of-force training, but also making sure that officers are taking it all in.
“The harder part for a lot of agencies is removing those officers on the street that are showing that in training, they’re not capable, physically or mentally, of making these high-stressful split second decisions they need to make,” Landers said.
Wisconsin’s academy training model requires new police recruits to undergo 720 hours of training. Landers said new recruits go through eight hours of force legal concepts, 54 hours of Defensive and Arrest Tactics training, 56 hours of firearms training, 24 hours of scenario-based training and 40 hours of scenario-based testing – much of which includes a focus on decision-making.
But after academy, Landers said the state doesn’t require use-of-force training, though many agencies include some as part of the 24 hours of required general training for officers a year.
The Madison Police Department does have required training –upward of 100 hours — for its officers beyond the academy level, including de-escalation.
Chief Shon Barnes told us earlier this year that he now requires officers to do use-of-force reviews every Monday to see what the officer involved could have done better.
MPD didn’t specifically comment on its Taser and firearms training, but offered links to its Standard Operating Procedures, including those relating to the use of handguns and electronic control devices.