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The Billings Gazette reports 12 fatal shooting by sheriff deputies and Billings police since 2012. While most appear justified, a few could have been handled differently. Law enforcement is much too quick to fatally shoot suspects, when they could as easily subdue an individual with disabling shots to their extremities.

Police training appears to be a problem; there is too much emphasis on shooting for the head and torso, suggesting the first option is to kill. Also, the numerous times officers fire their weapons suggests some are in panic mode — and poor shots. While protecting the life of the officer is important, there are situations where it is just as easy to disable as kill a suspect. The use of Tasers is laudable but not always effective. Where shooting is necessary, police need to shoot to disable — not to kill. A bullet striking a human is a pretty traumatic; few individuals continue to resist once struck.

Also, police need to make more frequent use of sharpshooters; they are better equipped to disable a suspect from a distance than officers armed with pistols or shotguns. How the suspect is armed makes a huge difference. While we don’t have all the facts, the April 9 death of Zachary Glen Hoven, shot by Billings police in an apartment hallway because he charged at officers with a knife was, in my opinion, unjustified. Too many officers seem to forget that part of their job is to arrest and apprehend; not act as judge and executioner.

Auzie Blevins