CBS’s Duthiers on Missouri State Law on Police Use of Force: ‘Sounds to Me as If the Cops Are Protected No Matter What’

Reporting on the latest in Ferguson, Missouri for Tuesday night’s CBS Evening News, CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers interviewed a St. Louis detective on what Missouri state law says regarding the ability of law enforcement to use deadly force. After reading from the law directly, Duthiers opined to the detective that it “[s]ounds to me as if the cops are protected no matter what they do.”

To Duthiers’s comment, Detective and St. Louis County Police Association President Gabe Crocker responded that police officers are not “protected by a blanket policy where they can just shoot people and get away with it,” but emphasized that “I do think the law allows for police officers to use deadly force.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]

The segment, which ran for just over two minutes, began with substitute anchor Maurice Dubois reporting that “more than 100 demonstrators marched from city hall to the federal court building demanding the arrest of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.” 

As Duthiers began his report, he stated that: “The Michael Brown shooting ignited a nationwide debate on race and policing. But for many in law enforcement, this is not a black and white issue.”

After he introduced Crocker, Crocker said that police officers can find themselves in situations where they “can go from zero to 60 or zero to deadly force in under a second and we shouldn't have an expectation in this country that every single less-lethal option will be utilized before deadly force is used.”

Next, Duthier read directly from Missouri state law on the subject:

According to Missouri law, deadly force is justified when an officer “reasonably believes such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes the person to be arrested...has committed or attempts to commit a felony.” 

Following Duthier’s ridiculous observation and Crocker’s rebuttal, Duthier summarized the varying accounts of what transpired between Brown and Wilson with police saying Wilson was hurt after Brown struck him and tried to take his gun. Duthier mentioned that both of those acts Brown allegedly committed, under that version of the story, would be felonies. On the other hand, he also pointed out that witnesses have said Brown was surrendering when he was shot and killed.

In offering his closing thoughts, Crocker responded to an observation from Duthier that an officer could retreat and step back from a situation where deadly use of force could be used instead of following through: 

I would say that there are certain circumstance where's a police officer will step back, but that's not typically in our nature and even in Missouri's law it says, you know, police officers are not to retreat. They’re not to step away – they need to do what is necessary in order to effect that arrest. 


The complete transcript from the segment that aired on the CBS Evening News on August 26 is transcribed below.

CBS Evening News

August 26, 2014

6:40 p.m. Eastern

MAURICE DUBOIS: In St. Louis today, more than 100 demonstrators marched from city hall to the federal court building demanding the arrest of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. While investigations are still under way, some in law enforcement believe state law may be on Wilson's side. Vladimir Duthiers is in Ferguson tonight. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE MARCHER: Hands up. 

CROWD MARCHING: Don't shoot! 

VLADMIR DUTHIERS: The Michael Brown shooting ignited a nationwide debate on race and policing. But for many in law enforcement, this is not a black and white issue. Detective Gabe Crocker is president of the St. Louis County Police Association. 

GABE CROCKER: You can go from zero to 60 or zero to deadly force in under a second, and we shouldn't have an expectation in this country that every single less-lethal option will be utilized before deadly force is used. 

DUTHIERS: According to Missouri law, deadly force is justified when an officer “reasonably believes such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes the person to be arrested...has committed or attempts to commit a felony.” [TO CROCKER] Sounds to me as if the cops are protected no matter what they do?

CROCKER: Do I think police officers are protected by a blanket policy where they can just shoot people and get away with it? No, but I do think the law allows for police officers to use deadly force. 

DUTHIERS: Police say Michael Brown punched officer Darren Wilson in the face and tried to take his gun, both of which are felonies, but witnesses say Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times. [TO CROCKER] But you can retreat. You can step back from the situation. 

CROCKER: I would say that there are certain circumstance where's a police officer will step back but that's not typically in our nature and even in Missouri's law it says, you know, police officers are not to retreat. They’re not to step away – they need to do what is necessary in order to effect that arrest. 

DUTHIERS: That's a law. 

CROCKER: That's a law. 

DUTHIERS: Maurice, we should note that Officer Crocker does not represent Wilson and is not involved in the investigation. A grand jury will meet again tomorrow to hear evidence in the case.

DUBOIS: Vladimir, thanks so much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division