30 seconds into Charles Kinsey video on July 18 in North Miami
Stacy Lim, training instructor with the Los Angeles Police Department: From where [the officers] are, they probably can just make out that it’s a silvery object. Officers do have scopes on their rifles. Some of them can give you a better view than your naked eye can. . . . You can’t put your gun down and go get binoculars. What happens if the kid shoots at the guy or shoots your partner after you walk away?
Geoffrey Alpert, professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina: The worker is doing exactly what he should do. He has his arms up where he is not a threat to anyone. He is telling the police what he is doing there and who this person is. He is just doing everything that you could possibly expect a person in that situation to do. Everything is going really well.
David Klinger, use-of-force expert and criminology professor with the University of Missouri-St. Louis : You can see this white thing in his hands. He’s moving it around. No one is shooting. It’s apparent to me from the reaction of the officers that they do not believe [the toy truck] is a firearm. They are doing nothing. At 30 seconds, the individual has the object in his right hand. He looks toward his left, where an officer is with a rifle. If there was a fear that it was a gun, that would have been a time where deadly force would have been appropriate.
31-42 seconds into Kinsey video on July 18 in North Miami
Alpert: Instead of yelling and screaming, you work with the guy whose hands are up. Open up lines of communication. He’s the one who’s obviously in danger, if anyone is in danger. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of the kid. What more can you ask for? You have a social worker on the scene who is talking to the kid. Get a negotiator in there to help you get the situation under control. There is no rush, call someone in. They have cover, they have tactical advantage. . . . He’s sitting in the street. It appears no one is around. There appears to be every opportunity to slow things down; calm things down.
Klinger: The other gentleman, whatever he has in his hands, it does not resemble any kind of firearm. I don’t know why they aren’t speaking to these individuals calmly. If they had, they probably would have learned very shortly that he is in a compromised mental state. That’s what you do. You find out what the story is and take it from there.
1:19-1:20 seconds into Kinsey video on July 18 in North Miami
Lim: For a brief second, you see two officers standing by some poles, and it appears they are using these poles as cover. From their vantage point, they probably can see the kid sitting down and the guy with his hands up. But they are farther away than the person who shot the video. So I don’t know if they can hear the man shouting to them, telling them it’s a toy truck.
1:42-1:45 seconds into Kinsey video on July 18 in North Miami
Lim: The shooting has already occurred. We don’t see it. We don’t know what they saw just before. If they believed that this kid is going to turn and execute someone on the ground, they can’t just wait to see what happens. What if they just stand there while this guy gets shot? How would people judge that? Officers have to make split-second decisions without the luxury of having video footage beforehand.
Alpert: I don’t see when they shoot him. Still, even if he did point the toy truck at them, what’s the threat? Again, they needed to cordon off the area and negotiate.
Klinger: It’s entirely possible that it’s a bad shot. Because three shots are fired and only one struck anybody. So obviously, whatever the officer who fired the shots was intending to do, even if he was aiming for the guy with his hands up, he only hit him once. It’s entirely possible that he was shooting at the person who is seated with the toy truck. ... I can’t imagine why an officer could have thought to fire three rounds. They have cover, which looks pretty good to me. I’m more than scratching my head, I’m dumbfounded.
The Charles Kinsey shooting is under investigation.
4-9 seconds into Alton Sterling video on July 5 in Baton Rouge
Lim: The suspect is not complying with orders. The one officer holsters his gun and tries to wrestle him to the ground so he doesn’t have to shoot him. They are thinking, “We can probably get him to the ground without having to shoot him.”
Alpert: They rush in. This guy hasn’t done anything serious, but they know there is a gun. Still, why are they moving in?
Klinger: I’m curious why you would be standing so close to an individual when they were told that this person had threatened someone with a gun. Maybe because there were innocents in the area, they couldn’t keep the distance that they would otherwise like, but that’s just a suspicion.
14-20 seconds into Sterling video
Lim: The officer is trying to get the arm behind him so they can get this guy cuffed up. You can see he is resisting a lot.
Alpert: He’s down on the ground. Why do they put him on his back? Why don’t they put him on his stomach? It’s so much easier to control someone when they’re on their stomach. I think this was a horrible decision.
Ron McCarthy, an expert on police use of force and former director-at-large of the National Tactical Officers Association: He is struggling; he isn’t complying. They are trying to control him. It’s very hard for police officers to control arms.
Klinger: They take him to the ground; it just devolves from there. I don’t understand that decision. Generally, it doesn’t make sense to rush somebody who you believe has a firearm. Why did they believe they needed to be close and take him down? When you take someone to the ground, you never know how it’s going to work out. He ended up on his back. You can’t say an officer was wrong for not getting a suspect onto his belly, which is the preferred position. It’s a whole lot easier to [handcuff a suspect] if their hands are not behind their body, but stuff just happens.
28 seconds into Sterling Video
Lim: The one officer is now grabbing his gun back out. At that point they are losing control of the suspect...They have been told he has a gun. The officer is reevaluating. “Uh, oh, I don’t have him.” Tactically, it’s not always safe to tackle people. If your officers have good size and they think they can control a suspect right away, they can go in. However, if it doesn’t work, then you’ve gone from talking to him, trying to negotiate, to escalating things. The only option you have left now, if you can’t control him, is to shoot him.
Alpert: The officer pulls out his gun. Why would you pull a gun if there is no imminent threat? Control his hands and there won’t be a concern. You jam your knee in his armpit. The arm goes out and you have control over the arm. That way, he can’t reach for his gun. This is tactics 101: It’s your hands that can hurt me. Keep the hands away from the body. You either roll him over to keep his hands away from his pockets or you put your knee in his armpit and pin the arm down. A well-trained officer would understand how to control the hands.
McCarthy: I hear the officer say, “He’s got a gun.” Are the officers’ lives at risk at this point? The answer is yes. He could pull a gun out of his pocket and pull the trigger in less than two seconds. Is deadly force now becoming a solution to this problem? Is it reasonable for me to believe that their lives are at risk? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. They could have used a baton, but they could have ended up hitting each other. Perfect accuracy is difficult. They could have used OC [pepper] spray, but then there’s the danger of cross contamination. The choice they made to take him down was a reasonable choice.
Klinger: It’s not doctrine to Tase and tackle people who you know are armed with a gun. However, I don’t see any problems with what the officers did once the fight went to the ground.
The Alton Sterling shooting is under investigation.
Philando Castile video on July 6 in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Lim: I would have probably got him out of the car. I don’t know where the gun is at. This would allow me to get more control over the situation. You have too many unknowns to walk up on him that close. Being right beside the window like that makes him too overexposed. He should have taken cover behind the patrol car. He should have slowed things down. When someone has a gun, you need to be extra vigilant in using cover effectively.
Alpert: If he is responding to a robbery suspect, it’s hard to understand why he would place himself in front of the window like that. You can approach at an angle so you aren’t in the immediate line of fire. We don’t know exactly what [the officer] was responding to. We don’t know what was said. There seem to be other options, but without knowing the full details of what the officer knew, it’s hard to say. . . . The consistent theme is you have him put his hands in a position where he can’t reach for a weapon.
McCarthy: This individual fit the description of a very dangerous suspect, who was believed to be armed. Then the officer walks up on the car. That’s a tactical error. I would get the male suspect out of the car; I’m using my patrol car as partial cover. I’m 40 feet away, giving verbal commands, telling him to get out of the car. I would ask him to get face down on the ground, facing away from the officer. Then you wait for backup. Once he walks up on the car, he puts himself in a bad spot. . . . I hate seeing a guy pointing a gun in the car in the direction of the kid. The officer’s safety doesn’t come before the safety of the child in the back seat of the car. . . . To me, the officer appears to be out of control emotionally.
Klinger: We are now learning that they thought he was a potential robbery suspect, which has me scratching my head even more now. You don’t walk up to the car under those circumstances. You just don’t. If I see a passenger and a child in the back seat, I’m going to keep my distance. I’m going to ask him to step out of the vehicle. I’d have him come out, pat him down. . . . There is a lot we don’t know. We don’t see the actual shooting. And, with the moments after, that are recorded, we are hearing two different narratives about what went down. What happened before is the $64,000 question.
The Philando Castile shooting is under investigation.
3-seconds into Mario Woods video on Dec. 2, 2015, in San Francisco
McCarthy: They are too close. They should be creating distance. . . . You hear a woman yelling and screaming. There is a lot of chaos. A lot of emotion. A lot of noise. Is that going to have an impact on the officers who respond to this? Yes, it will.
Klinger: It opens up with officers in a semicircle. The officers are too close. I don’t know what the distance is, but they are too close. . . . There are multiple officers with their firearms out. There is no need for that. You aren’t supposed to have everyone with their gun out. There should be a division of labor. You immediately see the command and control are gone. . . . They have shouted at him multiple times to drop the knife. That isn’t working. So what you do is tone it down. These are very basic crisis negotiation skills. Every police officer should be able to talk to someone when the situation has become static. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
15-24 seconds into Woods video
Lim: This is when they know they can’t contain him, that he will be a danger to the public if they allow him to go beyond that point. At this point, the officers have a good background with the brick wall. If they have to shoot, they don’t have a chance of endangering someone else. You can’t let him out; he has a weapon.
Alpert: I’m wondering, “Who is in charge?” When this officer moves in front of [Woods], he puts himself in this horrible position. I don’t understand why, tactically, that happened. Why did he go in? Why didn’t the officer with the beanbag rifle go in and try to use that again to stop him? Why didn’t the officer walk along the sidewalk with him, keeping a safe distance? I didn’t hear them trying to calm things down. Why are all these officers standing there with their guns drawn? I’d be scared, too.
McCarthy: We hear a lot of shots going off. That means there wasn’t a supervisor there, or the supervisor didn’t know what in the heck they were doing. A supervisor would say, “Jones and Smith, you are my primary shooters. Everyone else, put your guns away.” You want to limit the number of shooters. You learn this in training so it can be accomplished when you are under stress in the field.
Klinger: The mere fact that an officer fires some rounds, that doesn’t give me a lot of heartburn. What gives me a great deal of heartburn is that so many officers are firing. That is inexcusable. This is an example of really bad police work. The way it went down did not need to happen and should not have happened.
21-27 seconds into Woods video
Lim: They could have had more control over the situation if a supervisor assigned officers different tasks. Maybe pull out four officers. Have them set up a secondary containment to keep the public out. They could minimize force by having only three or four officers with their gun out. Maybe take it from [27 rounds] fired to three or four rounds. It would probably take three of four rounds to stop him.
Alpert: It certainly was contagion gunfire. Really? Twenty-seven shots without an imminent threat? It just doesn’t compute. There are crossfire concerns; ricochet concerns. Creating time and distance, that’s very important, and they completely removed that.
Klinger: Where is the supervisor? There should be three officers maybe with their guns out; two of the officers providing cover. The rest should be setting up a buffer zone. They should push off to the right side and left side of Mr. Woods to keep citizens away. If it got to the point where Mr. Woods was charging, well, okay, maybe you would have to escalate to deadly force, but that didn’t happen.
45-49 seconds in Woods video
Lim: He is going in to verify that he is no longer a threat. He is putting up his hands to say, “Everyone hold your rounds.” Generally, we wouldn’t do it that way. We don’t send a person in by himself. Tactically, one person would go up and another person would be designated to provide cover, in case the person is still a threat. I don’t know if there is another place they could have stopped. I would say stay on the road and point your car towards him as opposed to going into the actual park. Use the car as cover.
The Mario Woods shooting is under investigation.
35 seconds into video of Tamir Rice shooting on Nov. 22, 2014, in Cleveland
Alpert: The problem starts with the transfer of knowledge. The  caller is clearly saying, it’s a child. That it’s near a youth center. That it looks like a toy gun. None of that information got to the officers. The dispatcher put these officers in a horrible position.
22-26 seconds into Rice shooting
Lim: They come in so quick. The passenger officer is forced to engage with the suspect as soon as he gets there.
Alpert: Why would you drive up so close? Why not park on the street, take cover, try to engage this person? Try to negotiate. If that was a real gun, and the person wanted to shoot someone, the passenger in the patrol car would have been dead.
McCarthy: You stop about 40 feet away, you verbalize, and use the vehicle as partial cover. If an officer takes total cover he can’t see what the suspect is doing. At 30, 40 feet away, even if they needed to shoot, they are trained, the officers would be able to be very accurate. The suspect, if he had a real gun, probably would not be able to be so accurate. There is clearly a problem with training.
Klinger: You see the patrol car is moving at a pace where it cannot stop short. Why are you driving up so close? That is the core issue. You see Mr. Rice start to approach the vehicle. You have a situation where one police officer makes a really poor decision about the placement of the vehicle, and then he puts his partner in a no-win situation. It appears as if Mr. Rice is withdrawing a gun and the shooting happens. I cannot blame any officer who is mere feet away from someone who is in the process of withdrawing a gun.
The city of Cleveland settled with the Tamir Rice family for $6 million. The officers involved in the incident have not been charged.
Training instructor with the LAPD
Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina
Use-of-force expert and criminology professor with the University of Missouri-St. Louis
A national police use-of-force expert and former director-at-large of the National Tactical Officers Association