Atlantic City Pursuit and Gunfight – What Can We Learn?
Two weeks ago today New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that dashboard video of fatal encounters with LEOs should be released in most cases as a matter of public interest. This decision reversed an earlier, lower court’s decision restricting public access to such videos. The unanimous decision was made despite arguments from the New Jersey Attorney General that such disclosure could be “inimical to the public interest” by unnecessarily putting officers at risk or negatively impacting ongoing criminal investigations.
The court’s decision addresses dash cameras, but does not specifically mention body cameras. This doesn’t seem like a significant lapse (the decision will set the precedent) but will almost certainly come up at some point. Body cams have proven to be extremely valuable as LEOs are subjected to increasing scrutiny, particularly with regard to allegations of racism. Several officers have been exonerated by body cams in recent years, including those involved in the Cleveland, OH OIS where Theodore Johnson was shot, and other LEOs in Farmington (NM), Knox County (TN), and most recently, Rainbow City, Alabama. Body cams are frequently more useful when it comes to corroborating or refuting a story than dash cams, though the latter are definitely a useful tool.
Yesterday saw the release of the first video to be made available under the auspices of the ruling (that we’re aware of). This video was taken in March, 2014 in Atlantic City. It involves LEOs from multiple agencies in pursuit of a suspect named Antoquan T. Watson. The initial call was reportedly that of a man brandishing a handgun in either a bar or restaurant. As you can see, officers chased Watson for several miles over the course of at least ten minutes, ultimately wounding him fatally when he crashed, bailed, and opened fire on them.
The call for service, response, and subsequent pursuit began when Watson was unable to pay a restaurant bill, apparently grew frustrated, and pulled out a gun. Pleasantville, Egg Harbor Township, and Atlantic City police were all eventually involved, though to what extent, i.e. blocking traffic, assisting the chase, etc. is unknown.
So what can we learn? TTPs, within the admittedly limited and myopic perspective of this video. What do we keep and what do we replace? For instance:
• Radio traffic: Sounded pretty damn good to us. What do you think?
• Slick-tops: Do many agencies allow slick-top vehicles (those without lightbars on top) to participate in a vehicle pursuit in other than the most exigent circumstances?
• Duration/speed: Some agencies require supervisors to shut a pursuit down past a certain point. Should this one have been called off, or was the involvement of weapon (which he was pointing out the window during the pursuit) sufficient to warrant its continuation? (Note, we say that with the caveat that we know LEOs are frequently “damned if they do/damned if they don’t”).
Serious conversation only please. Anti-cop trolls looking to excoriate officers at every opportunity and incorrigible LEO supporters unable to admit and learn from mistakes, please feel free to fuck merrily off. Neither of you are doing society or this honorable profession any good.
What did we do right? What did we do wrong? Be safe, stay dangerous. That’s it for now, go forth and conquer.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: It might not be too surprising that David Reeder, who never met a $50 word he didn’t like, one of the “leaders” of the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous Breach Bang Clear team — insomuch as they have a leader (the terms orchestra conductor and rodeo clown are equally apropos). A former POG who tastes like chicken, Reeder cannot play the harmonica. He founded Breach-Bang-Clear quite accidentally at his young son’s behest several years ago. He is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, he was an O/C at the National Homeland Security Training Center for many years and a longtime MOUT instructor at the Bold Lighting UWS. Reeder has appeared on Fox News Business and written for a number of publications, from US News & World Report and Military.com to RECOIL Magazine and Soldier Systems Daily. All of that sounds way cooler than it actually is. You can read more about him here. Follow his banality on Instagram, @davidreederwrites.
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