Police shootouts in Tennessee almost always occur at night, more than likely at someone’s residence, and – oddly – in the month of March. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
In Middle Tennessee, a suspect in his underwear suddenly turns and reaches under a couch cushion for a pistol. The officer – there on a routine domestic dispute call – draws his weapon, backing up through the door as he fires – instinctively – hitting the man with six rounds and killing him.
“Through tunnel vision, the officer saw a giant .44 Magnum, but actually the subject had a .22,” a case study in the report states. “After what seemed to be a long time, the subject slumped forward, gun still in hand. The incident was later estimated to have taken from two to four seconds.”
Names and police departments remain anonymous in the report, which covers 2007 to 2012.The 60-page document finds that most of the time, officers involved in deadly force incidents tend to be younger.
The TBI has always investigated when an officer dies, but not necessarily when the suspect is killed. There was a spike in the use of deadly force in 2010, when 27 officers across the state were involved in an incident. A look back may help improve how officers respond, says assistant agent in charge Margie Quin.
“Officers are making split-second decisions about life or death issues,” Quin says. “That’s where the training part comes in.”
The survey finds police departments around the state want more “shoot/don’t-shoot” training as well as instruction in de-escalation techniques – which Quin calls “verbal judo.”