When the Dallas police finally took out Micah Johnson, they used a robot with a bomb — a device that can be compared to a drone. I considered this great police work but, remarkably, killing Johnson in this way proved to be controversial.
Some apparently believed that the officers engaged in the standoff with Johnson, who had tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to surrender, needed to come close enough to Johnson (who had already killed multiple officers) to be shot at before they would be justified in killing him. As it was, said one law professor, only the robot was in danger.
Today in Baton Rouge, officers did get close enough to a cop killer — Gavin Long — to be within firing range. As a result, three of them were slain.
It’s too early to discuss with confidence alternative ways, if any, in which Long might have been neutralized. But it’s possible that a drone, had one been available, would have come in handy.
When cop killers are willing to die in order to take out police officers in gun battles, we are in uncharted territory. Police departments need to find ways to fight back without accommodating the killers’ desire for a fire fight.
Whatever may have been the case in Baton Rouge today, it seems to me that, as a general matter, drones and related technology represent a good solution. At a minimum, they are a potential solution that should seriously be considered.