THE 21-FOOT RULE

When I was on the streets patrolling 51 Division, I don’t believe I ever thought of the 21-foot rule when up against someone with a knife.

51 Division was and still is a very violent division to work, in the City of Toronto. Because of the division make-up, drug dealers, hookers, and drunks, there was a lot of knife violence. Several times a week, working 51, you would investigate several incidents with knives, stabbings, threats with knives or encountering someone concealing a knife for their own protection.

I just don’t remember ever thinking of the 21-foot rule, nor do I remember talking to other coppers about it. If you, as a police officer, are in a position where you are threatened with a knife the first thought is ‘is this a threat to me, am I going to get stabbed or injured by this person with a knife, then is the incident a threat to anyone else’. I couldn’t care less how many feet the threat was away from me, usually you were going to be well within 21 feet anyways. But I do not know of any officer who would stand there facing someone with a knife in a threatening manor and count off how many feet they are away from you.

The bottom line here has been the same for years.  Whether it is 3 or 30 feet, if the officer believes he or she is going to be harmed they will have to discharge their firearm to protect themselves.

Every incident is different but there is a pattern and belief that the police officers should never use their firearms under any situation.

The same people never take into account the bad guy will not play by the same rules or worry about loss of life.

The premature headlines, about Police firing their weapons, in the newspapers are not video game material, they are real.  Anyone who points a knife at an officer and threatens them from any distance has a good chance of being shot. These are the life and death situations that police are trained to execute their duties.

The officer can play by every rule, communicate, back away, try to take cover etc… but then it is up to the person with knife as to what happens next.

Craig Bromell

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