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Justine Damond shooting 'makes absolutely no sense' -

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ELEANOR HALL: As a former police officer involved in a police shooting, US Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice David Klinger says the police response in this case does not add up.

I spoke to Professor Klinger in Minnesota a short time ago.

Professor Klinger, thanks for joining The World Today.

DAVID KLINGER: Thanks for having me.

ELEANOR HALL: Now, the Minneapolis Mayor, Betsy Hodges, says she has a lot of questions about why the police officer's body cameras were not on when one of them shot dead Australian Justine Damond. Is there any reasonable excuse for a police officer not to have his or her body camera turned on?

DAVID KLINGER: Yes. And what it basically boils down to is: in the United States there is no protocol that is nationwide about body cameras. And typically, what will happen is that the officers will turn their body cameras on in anticipation of a confrontation: a contact of an investigatory nature with someone who may be someone they might view as a criminal, as opposed to merely a witness.

And so what may have happened here is that the officers believed that this was a witness, not a suspect and so they didn't turn their bodycams on. Similarly, they didn't turn their in-car cameras on.

Typically, it goes on when the officer is anticipating some sort of confrontation with someone. You know, they're going to pull someone over for a traffic citation, for example.

ELEANOR HALL: You would have thought, though, in this case: if they thought it was a witness, why did they pull their gun out? If they pulled their gun out...

DAVID KLINGER: Who knows? I mean, the whole thing makes absolutely no sense at this point from the limited information I have.

And I agree with you 100 per cent: if someone pulls their gun out, one would think that that would be a confrontation, rather than a witness contact. So something doesn't make much sense here: there's no doubt about it. There are many, many, many questions. Sure.

ELEANOR HALL: When and why were body cameras brought in?

DAVID KLINGER: Well, to make a very long story short: we in the States have had a number of contentious situations where an officer says "this" happened, a citizen says "that" happened and unless we have some pretty clear forensic evidence about how things went down, we don't know.

Every now and then we would have a surveillance camera or something. And some smart people said, "You know, let's go ahead and put in cameras on officers' bodies like we did in squad cars," so that we could get what was going on when they weren't near their squad car.

Body cameras have been around for a little while: a few years. And the Federal Government is sponsoring ongoing research on the efficacy of these things: about when they should be turned on, when they should be off, so on and so forth.

And like any new technology that comes in, you have to take a little bit of time to set the parameters.

ELEANOR HALL: The American Civil Liberties Union says the officers should face penalties for making the truth harder to find. Do you agree?

DAVID KLINGER: I would have to know a lot more about the circumstances. And one of the things we always have to remember is: we have two officers here.

And perhaps one officer did everything right and it was the other officer - the one that shot - that did everything wrong. You can't blame the officer who was doing things right, assuming that there was no requirement by his policy agency that he or she should have had their body camera on.

And that's why I say: we really have to wait until we get a lot more information before we can make judgements. And I think it's quite frankly unfortunate that the American Civil Liberties Union, which is supposed to be all about making sure that everybody's liberties are protected, would already be saying that these officers should be penalised.

ELEANOR HALL: One fact that has come to light is that the police officer who shot this Australian woman shot her before even getting out of the car. Now, you have worked as a police officer yourself before you became an academic. Can you understand why and officer may have done this?

DAVID KLINGER: Sure. And in fact, police officers are trained to shoot from their vehicle. And think about this: there are circumstances where shooting from a car is the appropriate thing.

But the issue here in the States is always: did the officer have a reasonable believe that his or her life, or the life of another third party who is innocent - a partner or officer, an innocent citizen - was in jeopardy of being seriously injured or killed?

And absent that, the use of deadly force in the United States is inappropriate except for a very narrow band of trying to arrest violent felons who are trying to escape.

It's not the fact that the officer was in the vehicle that is so mind-boggling to me: it's what I know about a woman who called the police and walks out in her pyjamas and ends up dead.

ELEANOR HALL: I understand you have actually shot someone in the course of duty as a police officer. Can you tell us about that?

DAVID KLINGER: Sure. Very briefly: it was the summer of 1981 and my partner and I had responded to a barricaded gunman call: and that means that someone is inside a house with a firearm. And they had already shot at the person that lived in the house.

And we believed that the invader, the burglar, was still inside the house. So we were escorting people out of what we call the "kill zone," the area where the guy inside the house with the gun could harm people.

And there was a deranged individual or an upset individual or someone who was high on some type of drug - we don't know for sure. But he didn't leave the area when we told him to. And out of the blue he attacked my partner with a butcher knife: stabbed him in the chest, knocked him to the ground and jumped on top of him and was trying to drive the knife through my partner's throat.

And I tried to take the knife away, wasn't able to, so unfortunately I had to shoot him. But it's my belief that, if I hadn't shot him, he would have killed my partner.

ELEANOR HALL: What needs to happen in the Minneapolis Police force to make it as safe as possible for someone like Ms Damond to call the police for help?

DAVID KLINGER: Well, the first thing is: we need to have a thorough investigation. And it's my understanding that the investigating has been turned over to the Minnesota bureau of investigation, whatever their formal name is.

Here in the States, we have of course 50 states but jurisdictions: we have about 18,000 different police departments. Typically, when a large, highly publicised event happens in a smaller community, they will have the state investigators come in.

In this case, Minneapolis is a fairly big city but they have decided to turn it over to the Minnesota state investigators.

And so the first thing we need to have is: we need to have a thorough, transparent, 100 per cent - don't try to cover anything up - investigation. And then when the investigation is wrapped up, all the information needs to come out into the public so that everybody understands to the best that we can reconstruct exactly what happened.

And hopefully what that will do is: that will reassure the people in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the rest of the States that, when police officers use deadly force inappropriately, they're going to be held to account.

ELEANOR HALL: Of course, it's only a year since the police shooting of Philando Castile in this city made headlines around the world. Has there been much change in the police force as a result of that?

DAVID KLINGER: I don't have my finger on the pulse of the community up there, so I really don't know what people have been thinking since the acquittal, which happened quite recently.

But I can pretty much believe that there is a great deal of consternation about policing in what we call the twin cities, Minneapolis-St Paul, where a lot of people are going to be very, very concerned. We saw the video of the Castile shooting and I was highly critical of Officer Yanez' performance. There were a number of things that he did wrong in my opinion.

And so I think a lot of people all over the world, in Minnesota and then particularly in the twin cities, have many questions about the quality of law enforcement in that metro area. And my hope would be that the thorough investigation, the transparency would lead people to have a high degree of confidence and see something as awful as these two shootings are as aberrations, rather than a pattern.

Because if the police lose the confidence of the public, we're in a world of hurt.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor David Klinger from the University of Missouri, St Louis.