Thursday, May 26, 2005

Boston Botch

Interesting story out of Boston, from ABC News:

BOSTON May 25, 2005 — A panel investigating the death of a woman hit by a pepper spray pellet at a Red Sox celebration said Wednesday that police made mistakes at every turn, from the department's decision to buy the pellet guns for crowd control to an officer's decision to fire the errant shot.

Five officers face internal disciplinary action and those still on duty could be fired for their involvement in the shooting, police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said as the independent commission's report was announced. Victoria Snelgrove, 21, an Emerson College student, was shot in the eye Oct. 21 outside Fenway Park after Boston defeated the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. The city paid her family a $5.1 million settlement earlier this month.

"We find that inadequate planning and training, combined with a breakdown of command discipline, set up a situation ripe to produce an unintended result," read the report by the commission, headed by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern. Patrolman Rochefort Milien, who was certified to use the weapon, fired the pellet that killed Snelgrove. His lawyer has said the officer was aiming at someone near Snelgrove who was throwing bottles. "Officer Milien failed to take sufficiently into account that he was shooting at a moving target in the midst of a crowd and that a missed shot could easily strike a bystander," the report said.

The commission also faulted the Police Department's decision to buy the air-powered pellet guns in early 2004. Police officials did little research before making the purchase, then failed to properly train officers in their use, the panel said. Stern's commission also called for a national study on the effectiveness and safety of the FN303 pepper-pellet guns, manufactured by FN Herstal USA.

The report said the officers "did not appear to appreciate that a person could be seriously injured or killed." Milien and four others face internal charges alleging excessive use of force and poor judgment, the commissioner said at a news conference with Stern. O'Toole said each officer was "deeply distressed" by what happened.

Now, I don't know what happened, I wasn't there. I don't even like baseball. However, from just what this article is telling me, I can't say I side with the family of the victim here. Yes, the officer fired at a bottle-throwing jackass and missed and a seriously unfortunate incident happened. However, it seems to me to be an accident with no improper actions by the officer.

Yes, if the officer misses, he could hit someone behind. However, the bottle-thrower was a more dangerous element in my estimation. A guy throwing glass around could seriously injure someone. The officers were completely justified in trying to employ a less-lethal device against him. What followed was a freak accident, but it was in no way indicative of "excessive use of force". If you want to get right down to the nitty gritty, at least in the state of California, a man throwing bottles at a police officer could be considered a deadly force situation. Employing a less-lethal device is a favor to this rioting idiot. If anything, the family should have sued him for creating the conditions that necessitated the use of force in the first place. But no, let's blame the cops...

Granted there may be more to the story, but from what I read here, there is simply no indication that the officer acted improperly. Now, if it's a training issue, then it's still not the officer's fault if he was acting within his training. I wish ABC news would have taken an extra 20 minutes and found out a little more of the story. Oh well... If nothing else, I just hope that the officers are treated reasonably and with respect and not used as scapegoats or offered up as human sacrifices to the public.


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