Anchorage agency changes policy: No shooting at suspects using vehicles as weapons

Anchorage Police officers will now have to follow a new policy that dictates that no lethal force may be used toward suspects who are using vehicles as weapons. Only in cases where a suspect is using another weapon besides the vehicle will the mandate change to fit the circumstance.

Police One reported that the previous policy allowed officers to shoot at suspects who were using vehicles as weapons. The change came after a number of incidents where police opening fire in these situations led to greater safety risks to the public and law enforcement. Police Chief Mark Mew told the news source that once the policy is fully implemented, officers will be retrained to deal with these vehicle-as-weapon situations.

"You have a setup that's changing. Vehicles are moving. Officers are moving. Suspects are moving," Mew said, according to the news source. "You might start out with a safe approach and suddenly everything is unsafe, and when you have bullets flying around, it just is not controlled enough and we think there's a better way to do it."

Daily News Miner reported that in the past year, the Anchorage police department have had three officer-related shootings involving moving vehicles, like when cars were used to ram police cruisers. Out of these incidents, one person was killed.

"More often than not, these types of events are on roadways, in neighborhoods, and places where other bystanders are around," Mew said in the statement, according to Police Magazine. "There may also be passengers in the subject vehicles that may or may not be willing participants in the driver's criminal behavior." 

Because of these incidents and the new policy change, officers will need to be trained to use other tactics, which will not be released. 

"We can't because basically our tactics and our methods are like our playbook," police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said, according to the news source. "If we release those, it's like handing the criminals our playbook and we don't want to do that." 

The department is hiring a consultant to come in and help with the re-write of the Anchorage-specific policy. According to a statement made by Mew, no-shoot, vehicle-as-weapon policies are growing in popularity and improving safety for both the public and officers. Training incorporating new tactics for handling these situations is expected to begin in the next few months following the full implementation of the policy.

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