The Minneapolis Police Department last month tightened its standards for officers using deadly force, but backed away after the union and some of the rank-and-file raised concerns.
The proposed changes were rolled out May 25, according to a copy of the policy obtained by the Star Tribune, less than a year after the last policy revisions governing use of police weapons.
The tabled policy would have "strongly" discouraged officers from firing at, or from, moving vehicles, while prohibiting them from taking actions that unnecessarily put themselves or others in harm's way "so that deadly force becomes their only option to resolve the situation."
Department administrators said the policy revisions highlighted the dangers of shooting at a moving vehicle, noting that the shots could inadvertently strike the passengers or cause the driver to crash, harming others.
Similar guidelines are being adopted by many law enforcement agencies across the country, but the union that represents the city's roughly 850 officers objected to the idea.
"Our members were up in arms," said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Kroll said that the new policy was too vague, that it would remove officers' discretion and that it would increase penalties for those who violate it.
He also challenged a provision that would hold an officer accountable "if their actions unnecessarily place themselves, the suspect, or the public in a deadly force situation." That would make it easier to punish officers even if their actions comply with a law allowing the use of deadly force to protect themselves from great bodily harm or death, he said.
The changes were shelved shortly after the union raised concerns with department brass, Kroll said.
Sgt. Catherine Michal, a department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail last week that the revised policy was pulled after some officers raised questions about it. Michal said the policy would be clarified.
The proposed policy said that officers "shall strongly consider moving out of the path of an oncoming motor vehicle" instead of firing at the vehicle or its occupants, thereby "minimizing the need for deadly force."
Kroll said that wording may have been prompted by an incident last year in which an off-duty officer fired a bullet at a car full of people while responding to a melee downtown. None of the car's occupants was injured, but the officer, Efrem Hamilton, was later charged with felony assault and placed on home leave, pending the outcome of the case, Kroll said.
Michal said the revisions already were under consideration at the time of the incident.
"This was in progress as part of our overall use-of-force policy changes," Michal wrote. "These are national best practices that are supported by PERF [the Police Executive Research Forum] and IACP [the International Association of Chiefs of Police]."
The department had overhauled its use-of-force policy last August, emphasizing "sanctity of life" and de-escalation. It required officers to exhaust reasonable options to defuse dangerous situations before using force.
Officials wrote at the time that the rule changes, based on recommendations by former President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, were another step in rebuilding trust between the police and the public.