Law enforcement officers must use their critical thinking skills and keep their emotions in check when responding to a potential barricade situation, said Maj. William Davis of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
Davis is no stranger to such situations, having spent more than two decades in law enforcement.
He said the approach to such incidents has evolved a lot over the years.
“Police departments have come a long way,” Davis said. “As a young officer in Baltimore City, you were almost encouraged to do something right then and there.”
Now, the emphasis is on safety—for the officers responding and for the people who may be involved in the barricade.
Several barricade situations in the area have drawn attention in recent weeks. Most recently, over the weekend, Daniel Brian Blackwell was charged in connection with a barricade situation in Baltimore County that allegedly began with a dispute over a grilled cheese sandwich.
Davis, who could not comment on that specific incident, said it’s important for deputies or officers to be able to control their own responses.
“Your first thought is, is there a threat of severe bodily harm?” Davis said. “If not, you can slow things down quite a bit.”
When dealing with the officers who are on the scene, supervisors are instructed to ask three things: Where are you? What do you have? What do you need?
“De-escalation has sort of become a buzzword in recent years,” he said.
Once on a scene, it’s important for officers to establish a solid perimeter around the location, get more units there if necessary, and make sure they are doing everything they can to diffuse the situation without resorting to deadly force.
Several barricades over the last few months have ended tragically. Last August, Baltimore County Police shot and killed Korryn Gaines, a woman locked in an hours-long standoff with police in her Randallstown apartment.
Just two weeks ago, a Queen Anne’s County sheriff’s deputy was wounded after exchanging gunfire with a suspect, who was shot and killed.
No officer wants to be in that situation, Davis said.
“The trauma that comes from that is unimaginable,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, there have been times when officers could have or should have used deadly force, but were hesitant to do so because of the media attention that surrounds such incidents.
“It’s kind of a catch 22,” he said.