APD: “The police department does not have a ‘shoot to kill policy’”

The Anchorage Police Department has issued a statement clarifying the policy and procedure on the use of deadly force.

Here is the statement by Chief Mark Mew:

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew

The Anchorage Police Department wants to clarify two points that may have been misunderstood or perhaps under appreciated by the media, thus inviting repeated inaccurate statements by news consumers commenting though the media.  These are significant issues, and we want the public to understand them clearly.

  1. The police department does not have a “shoot to kill policy.” By law and APD policy deadly force can only be applied when there is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.  Police are to shoot only under those circumstances, and when they do so it is with the purpose of instantly ending the attack.  You could call it a “shoot to stop policy.”  It is true these kinds of shots often have fatal results, but death is not the intended outcome.  This response is standard throughout the country.  What the police department has said is that it will not loosen its policy to allow officers to try to wound, disable, or disarm suspects by firing lethal bullets at extremities, at peripheral body parts, or at weapons.  Deciding not to make such a proposed change does not mean the APD shoots to kill.
  1. The APD does not decide on the legality or illegality of a police shooting (or fatal use of force). That determination is made by the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals (OSPA), a subdivision of the State of Alaska Attorney General’s Office.  APD detectives collect evidence under OSPA’s guidance, and turn that information over to OSPA.  OSPA also collects evidence from other state sources, such as the Crime Lab and the Medical Examiner’s Office.  In some cases OSPA may conduct investigative activities of its own.  After a review of all evidence, and after a thorough legal analysis, OSPA will issue findings on the legality or illegality of the force used (e.g. whether or not criminal charges will be filed).  In other words, it is the state—not the city—that determines such matters.

There is much public dialog right now about police use of lethal and less lethal force.  This discussion is extremely important to our community.  Particularly when emotions are running high, it is crucial that the discourse centers around facts, not misinformation.