WINTERPORT, Maine — Police Officer Ryan Rosie was faced with a situation no police officer ever wants to be in — taking another life.
Outside the Farmington police station on Nov. 19, Rosie shot Justin Crowley-Smilek to death after Crowley-Smilek reportedly rushed at the officer with a knife.
The incident is under investigation through the Maine Attorney General’s Office, as are all police-involved shootings. Rosie was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Retired FBI investigator Urey Patrick of Winterport said a police officer’s job is to protect himself and others.
“The Supreme Court has made it clear,” said Patrick, who wouldn’t comment specifically on the Farmington case. “A police officer can let the public take the risk, take [the risk] upon himself or put it on the individual who brings the danger in the first place. That’s what law enforcement is for — to protect the community. They have to protect themselves [first] to do that.”
Patrick is co-author of “In Defense of Self and Others …” with John Hall. The book is required reading material at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, where Patrick occasionally lectures.
Patrick said there are only two instances in which deadly force is justified: “to protect himself or others from imminent risk of serious injury or to prevent the escape of a dangerous person.”
Police are trained to shoot toward the chest when faced with such a situation. Aiming for an extremity to wound instead of kill is an unnecessary risk for the officer, he said.
“First of all, an arm or leg is a small target. You’re asking an officer to further gamble his life,” said Patrick, who worked in the FBI for 25 years, including 15 years as a full-time instructor in firearms programs.
Shooting a hand doesn’t mean the subject will stop or drop the weapon like in the movies, he said.
“The problem with the shoot-to-wound thing is that it requires the wound to influence the individual, and that almost never happens in a life-or-death situation,” he said. “Most people aren’t aware they’ve been shot until well after the fact.”
Patrick was the consultant in a situation in which a young man with a knife was holding hostages inside a church.
“He charged a police officer and the officer fired four shots, all striking the man in the forearm, hand and wrist that was holding the knife. It didn’t stop the threat,” he said, adding that the officer’s partner shot down the knife-wielding subject. “They had to pry the knife out of his hands.”
Patrick recalled another instance in Kansas City where an officer was involved in an extended shootout. He said the officer was shot in the calf but didn’t realize it until someone spotted blood on his pants — three hours later.
That’s why, Patrick said, officers are taught to fire multiple rounds.
“If you destroy the heart, there’s still enough oxygen in the brain to produce enough action for 10-15 seconds,” he said. “A lot of shots can be fired in 10-15 seconds.”
Officer Rosie was carrying a Tazer on his belt but didn’t use it, according to a previous story in the Bangor Daily News.
“I think the Tazer is a wonderful tool for law enforcement, but it’s not a magic wand,” Patrick said.
In dealing with Maine police departments, Patrick said he learned that Tazers have a success rate of about 70 percent.
“If you’re willing to bet your life on something that has a 30 percent failure rate, that’s his decision, but a police officer is not required to take that chance,” he said.
Maine is unique in that it has an independent body to investigate police-involved shootings. In most states, he said, the police departments investigate their own.
“I’ve worked in a lot of police departments around the country and Maine is the only state I know where there’s an independent state-level investigator mandated by law,” he said, referring to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. “I think it’s a great system.”
Patrick said he ranks Maine’s police force among the best in the country.
“In terms of full-time police and law enforcement, anyone else in the country doesn’t hold a candle to Maine. They’re well-trained and extremely well practiced,” he said.