GREENSBURG (KDKA) — At the state police training center in Greensburg, officers spend hours in classroom instruction and simulation training.
Corporal Kevin Selverian was the instructor for KDKA’s Lisa Washington for the day.
When it comes to the using force — lethal or less-lethal — Corporal Selverian says there are four questions officers should ask themselves: Does the person have the ability to do deadly harm? The opportunity? Have they taken a significant step toward the act? Has a less-lethal option been precluded or excluded?
“The biggest question associated with opportunity is, is the suspect within in striking distance?” Cpl. Selverian said.
After instruction, it was time to suit up with a vest, firearm and taser. Lisa had a few practice rounds before the first scenario: a domestic violence suspect sitting outside his apartment building, wielding a large knife. With those few details, Lisa was told to do what she thought a police officer should do.
She ordered the suspect to “put the knife down now.”
She used short, forceful commands, but the suspect refused to obey the orders.
The man on the screen yelled, “What are you going to do? Come on, shoot me…”
Lisa chose to draw her firearm as she repeated the commands. Within seconds, the suspect went from sitting at the table, to raising the large knife and charging. Lisa fired several rounds.
Cpl. Selverian complemented the actions.
“Do I think you did everything right? I think you did a very nice job. Again, he demonstrated ability, he had the opportunity…” he said.
The corporal says when it comes to application of force, officers have to abide by criminal law, civil law and the rules and policies of the State Police — and decisions have to be made quickly.
“Very often, we are confronted by fast-paced, ever-changing, rapidly-evolving circumstance and from a perspective of legality as well from a tactical standpoint we want to insure that our officers are acting in the most appropriate manner possible,” Cpl. Selverian said. “Very often, complex decision-making need be made in very short periods of time.”
Lisa fired her weapon in the second scenario too, when a suspect matching the description of an armed robber walked near her patrol car. Suddenly, he began firing as he came from behind a dumpster.
Lisa fired, but late… seconds wasted deciding what to do.
“Do I get out of the car, and what do I say to this person?” Lisa said, explaining her hesitation to the corporal.
“It’s important that again all this practice occur and that all this conditioning be instilled in our officers, whether new or experienced,” Cpl. Selverian said, “but the more opportunity to have to do this, the better off they would be.”
Every incident is a matter of making the best, reasonable decision in a timely manner to keep everyone safe. It’s the duty of police — to protect and serve.