Bayonne Fatal Shooting Raises Questions: When Knives, Mental Health Crises are Involved, How Should Police Respond?


Associate Dean for Experiential Education Michael W. Martin was quoted in The Jersey Journal in an article examining a fatal police shooting in Bayoone, New Jersey, and police response to mental health crises.

When Lee Waskiewicz’s mother welcomed two police officers into her home on June 7, she called up to her son and showed him who she had brought to help him.
The tragic events that quickly unfolded raise questions often encountered in modern policing: How should police officers respond when knives are drawn? When is deadly force justified? And what role should law enforcement play in America’s mental health system?
The answers are often subjective and divisive, but statistics show mental duress or knife-wielding are often at play when officers decide to use deadly force.
Body camera footage released last week revealed a standoff with Waskiewicz, who was apparently holding a knife at the top of a staircase, while the two officers stood below with their guns raised. When Waskiewicz began descending, the officers opened fire and shot him dead.
The series of decisions that led to the Bayonne cops being in a tight space with an individual who then drew a knife can also be examined, said Fordham Law School’s Michael W. Martin, associate dean for experiential education.
“I find myself not wanting to question somebody who has to make a split-second decision as a knife is coming toward them and yet you have to ask, did they put themselves in the best position in that moment putting themselves in a tight space with guns drawn with somebody who has been raging?” Martin said.
“I guess the question in that moment was, was he a danger to his mother or to himself? And that’s a tough question to ask. I don’t envy the police.”

Read the full article.


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