Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s remarks about police shooting suspects “in the leg,” rather than aiming for center of mass to neutralize a threat, have sparked criticism from law enforcement professionals.
Biden was asked during the ABC Town Hall on Oct. 15 about criminal justice reform, and in response, the former vice president touched on deescalation techniques before saying law enforcement response protocols should be changed.
“You can ban chokeholds, but beyond that you have to teach people how to deescalate circumstances,” Biden said.
“So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”
But experts say Biden’s suggestion is, at best, unrealistic.
“Former VP Joe Biden’s suggestion that cops should ‘shoot someone in the leg’ if they’re coming at them is insulting and demonstrates his incompetence and inability to understand the grave dangers cops face as they protect the public and themselves from violent, heartless criminals,” the Detectives’ Endowment Association wrote on Twitter on Oct. 16.
Joe Gamaldi, national vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, called Biden’s suggestion “completely ridiculous,” “unrealistic,” and a “pandering talking point.”
“Shootings are dynamic situations and we shoot to stop the threat,” Gamaldi told Fox News. “It’s incredibly difficult to hit a moving target.”
Cops aren’t trained to shoot to wound because it is less likely to stop a threat, increases the likelihood of firing stray rounds, and requires the kind of precise marksmanship that is difficult under controlled circumstances, much less under the dynamics of a real-world confrontation with a suspect.
“There is no way an officer can react, track, shoot, and reliably hit a threatening suspect’s forearm or a weapon in a suspect’s hand in the time spans involved,” Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, wrote in a paper for the institute. He added that introducing shoot-to-wound mandates would “hold officers to super-human performance and punish them criminally for being unable to achieve it.”
Biden earlier made similar remarks about shoot-to-wound training or protocols.
“Instead of standing there and teaching a cop, when there’s an unarmed person coming at them with a knife or something, you shoot them in the leg instead of in the heart is a very different thing. There’s a lot of different things that could change,” in police training, Biden said at a June meeting with community leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware.
Those remarks also drew rebuke from law enforcement professionals.
“Officers are not trained to ‘shoot somebody in the heart’ as Biden says, but rather to aim for the biggest part of the body, so as to be most likely to hit the person presenting the threat and not hit anybody else,” Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, told Fox News.
“This always includes the condition that the officer or somebody else is in peril of death or great bodily harm, and certainly someone charging at you with a knife satisfies that requirement.”
Biden, in his remarks during the town hall, said it’s important that police are in a position to identify if they’re dealing with a suspect with mental health issues.
“That’s why we have to provide—within police departments—psychologists and social workers to go out with the cops on those calls, some of those 911 calls, to deescalate the circumstance, to deal with talking them down,” Biden said.