By Derek Spellman
Globe Staff Writer
The Civilian Advisory Committee to the Joplin Police Department on Tuesday reviewed a proposal that would allow officers to shoot from a moving vehicle in certain situations.
Committee members also examined the results of a survey of local residents regarding the Police Department.
Under the current policy, officers may not fire their weapons from a moving vehicle under any circumstances. They may shoot at a moving vehicle, provided certain conditions are met.
These include an assessment that an occupant in a fleeing vehicle poses "an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury" or would pose such a threat if the vehicle were not stopped.
If the proposed revisions are approved, officers could fire from a vehicle but would be subject to the same restrictions in effect for firing at one.
Another component of the proposed policy change would qualify one of those restrictions that now bans officers from firing "at or in the direction of" a moving vehicle that "no longer poses an immediate threat."
This change, if adopted, would mandate that police consider all factors spelled out in the department's vehicle-pursuit policy when deciding whether a fleeing vehicle "poses an immediate threat." Those factors include the presence of bystanders, the environment, weather and rate of speed.
Police revisited the use-of-force policy after a motorist and a Jasper County sheriff's deputy traded gunshots during a chase May 1 in southwest Joplin, said Lt. Geoff Jones.
Jones said the review was prompted by the incident in general, not by the way county authorities handled it.
"We are not here to critique Jasper County or second-guess them," Jones said. "We're just here to look at our policy."
Sgt. Bill Goodwin, who outlined the proposed changes to the committee, said he thinks the department's current restrictions do not align with the prevailing laws on rights to self-defense.
Police Chief Kevin Lindsey has the final say about whether the proposed changes will be adopted, Goodwin said. Officers presented the proposal to the advisory committee to gather civilian viewpoints, he said.
Lindsey was out of the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
In other business, the advisory committee reviewed the results of the residents' survey that was put out in February.
The survey drew 540 responses, the bulk of which favorably rated local police, according to city officials.
The survey also asked people to rate different issues in order of importance to them to gauge how people think officers should allocate their time and resources.
On that section, 29 percent of respondents said illegal drugs should be the No. 1 priority, while 27 percent said it should be crime prevention, 17 percent said it should be violence, and 13 percent said it should be traffic enforcement.
Of the 540 responses, about 420 came from a telephone survey that was administered using reverse 911 system technology to contact residents at random and solicit their opinions about local police. The balance of the survey responses were written.
Source: Lt. Geoff Jones, Joplin Police Department
By Derek Spellman