Fox 13 Exclusive: when police can use deadly force, but don’t 

Posted at 10:16 PM, May 16, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY - Many police officers have moments in which they must decide whether or not to respond to a threat with deadly force. 

Confrontations between citizens and officers can happen anywhere, anytime. Like the one which played out during a traffic stop in Salt Lake City just after 10 a.m. on the morning of January 26th.

In a video incident by an officer's body camera, a driver, who was pulled over, quickly got out of his vehicle and advanced toward the police officer with a knife in one hand.

The officer, with his weapon drawn, yelled to the man "I'm not gonna do this, I'm not gonna do it. Don't make me do it."

In the seconds that followed, the officer used his own patrol car as an obstacle to separate himself from the suspect. He emerged from cover with a taser in hand, which he deployed, successfully taking the suspect to the ground, and into custody.

Had the officer fired his weapon, the use of deadly force would have been justified, says Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

"The Salt Lake City Police Department is probably one of the leading agencies in the country as far as how we train and deploy and use these tactics to de-escalate and save lives," Brown said.

He says his officers have been receiving additional training over the past year or so, learning new techniques in de-escalation.

"People don't call us when they're having the best day of their life. They call us when they're having a crisis," Brown said.

For Salt Lake City officers, part of dealing with those in crisis, now involves delaying action be even just a few seconds if possible.

Newer techniques involve more voice commands from the officer, and the slight giving and taking ground with a suspect to buy time. This allows the suspect an opportunity to calm down, as well as giving the officer an opportunity to rethink his approach, possibly using non-lethal force like a taser to subdue a suspect.

"It's amazing to see the training go into effect," Brown said, commenting on the video of the January 26th incident, noting that he gave the officer involved "a big hug. I told him 'nice work. I think he saved a life."

The officer, whom Brown describes as "humble and quiet," opted not to recount the incident to Fox 13 on camera.

Brown has awarded the officer with one of the Salt Lake City Police Department's newer commendations: a de-escalation award.

"It's actually a medal we give to officers to be worn on their uniforms. Since June we have awarded 37 medals," Brown said.

To see more of the incident described in this story, watch the video.

The suspect's face has been obscured, as he may have been suffering from mental health problems at the time of the incident. He has since been charged with crimes related to his actions that day.