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Was police decision to go after fugitive in attic the safest choice? Is it too soon to ask?





As the Times wrote Thursday morning:

"A fugitive with a violent history is holed up in an attic with a gun. What's the next step for law enforcement?

"Monday morning in St. Petersburg, the decision was made to go after the guy. In what police Chief Chuck Harmon called an ambush, two police officers were killed and a deputy U.S. marshal wounded.

"Even as the community grieves, many are asking difficult and sensitive questions about the tragedy — questions echoed by veteran police officers and tactical experts:

"Why didn't officers call in the SWAT team and a negotiator and wait? The decision to go into the attic was a brave one, but was it the best one?"

The debate

Times reporters talked to several experts in police tactics. A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles SWAT team said: "When you're told the suspect is in the attic and he's got a gun, it's a no-brainer. Call in the SWAT team."

St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt quickly dismissed outside criticism: "I think it's very misleading for so-called experts to render an opinion without specific knowledge of the facts in this situation," he said.

Many of the commenters on our stories believe that, with the funerals still to come, such questions are premature and insensitive. Some commenters believe that no such questions should be asked of heroes who risk their lives to protect us.

And yet many commenters have asked from the beginning about the decision to send these officers into what the chief later called an ambush.

All fair points.

What do you think?


[Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 11:33am]


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