Denver police banned from shooting at cars after death of teenage driver

On the heels of a widely criticized fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl who is said to have driven toward police officers who then opened fire, the Denver Police Department has a new policy of prohibiting shooting at cars if someone inside is not firing a weapon.

The new policy more closely resembles policies at police departments nationwide, said the Denver Post.

The Denver Police Department revealed its new policy on Monday, following the decision by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey not to prosecute the two officers who fatally shot the girl, Jessica Hernandez, earlier this year. Police said that Hernandez had driven her car right at them.

The new policy is more specific than the old one about when police officers may open fire at someone inside a car.

"Where this was a recommendation, now it's a directive," said Denver Police Chief Robert White, according to the Post. "We want the first reaction to be get out of the way rather than pull your firearm."

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The Hernandez family said that Jessica would still be alive if the police had not been quick to spray her car with bullets.

The new policy urges caution unless a police officer faces a clear threat of death or serious injury, the newspaper said. The policy also says that a car moving toward a police officer, as Jessica’s car apparently did, is not to be considered a weapon and does not justify using deadly force. It urges that a police officer instead make efforts to avoid such a car.

The Denver Police Protective Association, which represents the rank-and-file, objected to the new policy.

"Moving into or remaining in the path of a moving vehicle, whether deliberate or inadvertent, shall not be justification for discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any occupant," the policy states.

Training police officers about the changed policy is set to begin next week, the Post said.

The officers shot Hernandez, whom reports described as unarmed. Four other teenagers were in the car with her. The officers said that she steered her car toward them and almost struck one of the two officers.

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