Expert: Support important for cops who kill on job

Psychological effects of using deadly force can be severe, experts say


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Most police officers agree the worst-case scenario for them is the use of deadly force in a confrontation with a suspect.

Digging deeper into these challenges for law enforcement officers, News4Jax spoke to crime and safety analyst Gil Smith and a forensic psychologist.

Last week, a Jacksonville teen was shot and killed by police Sgt. J.C. Nobles during a chase. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said 16-year-old Kendre Alston flashed a gun at the sergeant.

In the coming months, the police "response to resistance board" will determine if the shooting was justified.


Nobles has killed two people during his career -- Alston (pictured) and 24-year-old Kiko Battle. Police said both men were armed when Nobles shot them.

JSO officers wouldn't talk specifically about what's next for Nobles after the Alston shooting, but according to forensic psychologist Stephen Bloomfied, the first thing officers need is each other.

"Usually the immediate response to an officer who shoots or kills someone is immediate support, and then trying to get them away from the scene to process what happened," Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said it's not uncommon for officers to forget how many times they pulled the trigger. And he said the realization that the gun they carry every day really kills can be hard for officers to understand.  Bloomfield said police-involved shootings can lead to nightmares, flashbacks and erratic behavior.

"You want to see if there's a big change, change in depression, eating, sleeping, how they react to the job," Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said officers who have to use deadly force often end up second-guessing themselves later in their career, which can be a dangerous reaction, because officers rely heavily on their instinct.

"Sometimes an officer has three or four shootings and the public asks, 'What's going on with that officer?' And it may not be that officer," Smith said. "It may be the situation that they are in, if they are patrolling a high-crime area or narcotics, it's a higher chance you might have to use your firearm."

Smith said it's JSO policy for officers to go through a psychological evaluation within two to three days of a shooting, regardless of whether the victim died or not. Smith said shooting and killing someone is the worst case scenario for police. 

"I've known police officers who've had to kill someone in the line of duty and I've known them for 25 years, and they've never spoken about it," Smith said. "It's not like it's a bragging right. They've never brought it up, and I've never brought it up either." 

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