City cops are trained to kill emotionally disturbed people wielding baseball bats — if they feel their lives are in imminent danger.
A law enforcement source told the Daily News that instructors in the Police Academy teach would-be cops to use deadly force “if the suspect is threatening deadly physical force” with a bat or any other type of weapon.
In a scenario similar to the fatal confrontation on Tuesday between Sgt. Hugh Barry and Deborah Danner, academy instructors during the most recent final exams in June posed the following question:
“With a baseball bat in his hands, an emotionally disturbed man charges at a police officer and threatens to break his nose. The officer is backed against a wall. Based on the department guidelines on the use of force and deadly physical force… (select the correct statement).”
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The correct answer:
“Because the suspect is threatening imminent deadly physical force, the officer may shoot.”
Members of the academy would be wrong if they answered that cops shouldn’t shoot. They would be wrong if they thought cops should opt to use their baton or pepper spray first.
Union officials say the exam question and answer obtained by the Daily News prove that Barry acted appropriately when he shot and killed Danner, a 66-year-old schizophrenic woman who swung a bat at the eight-year NYPD vet.
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Others say Barry could have walked out of the bedroom of the woman’s Bronx home and that he had other options, including using a Taser or calling the Emergency Service Unit for backup. Police have not said whether the sergeant’s back was against a wall.
Barry managed to talk the schizophrenic woman into dropping her scissors during the 6 p.m. showdown, but shot her in the chest and arm inside her bedroom when she picked up a baseball bat and tried to strike him with it, officials said. The NYPD immediately stripped Barry of his gun and shield after the shooting.
The source said cops are allowed to use force more powerful than the one being used against the officer, saying "If someone is using a knife or a bat, you can use your gun.”
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill quickly said Danner should not have died.
“The bottom line — we were called to help her, and we ended up killing her,” O’Neill said Friday. “It’s not just a matter that somebody has a weapon.”
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Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins pointed out the disparity between the test question and Commissioner O’Neill’s response. “It’s ridiculous,” Mullins said. “This exact scenario is on a test in the Police Academy. It proves that he’s lying and falling in political step with the mayor.”
An NYPD spokesman could not confirm Saturday if the question was on an academy final exam — but said Barry wasn’t stripped of his gun and shield because he shot Danner.
“He was modified because he failed to follow proper procedures and tactics in dealing with a mentally ill person,” the spokesman said, adding that Barry was supposed to either use his Taser or isolate and contain Danner so she wouldn’t hurt anyone.
The department has yet to determine if the use of force against Danner was necessary, the spokesman said. A high-ranking police source noted that the academy question indicated that the cop’s back was to the wall.
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“In the question, it appears the officer has no other choice,” the source said. “In (the Danner shooting) there were other options.”
Former NYPD cop turned John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Eugene O’Donnell said cops are trained to see baseball bats as deadly weapons.
“You have to tell cops that are immersed in worrying about guns that you are just as dead and just as comatose if you are hit in the head with a baseball bat,” O’Donnell. “It’s almost malpractice for a cop to go into a room and not say to themselves ‘What can be used as a weapon here?’ ”
The question of how to handle people with baseball bats is often brought up at the academy, another source said.
“It’s often on tests, especially use of force tests,” the source said. “You are always allowed to use a force higher than the one being used against you. If someone is using their fists, you can use your mace or a baton. If someone is using a knife or a bat, you can use your gun.”
The Bronx district attorney is investigating the shooting.Send a Letter to the Editor