LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Police Commission is poised today to  adopt a major shift in the way it judges police shootings, tying an officer's  decision to pull the trigger to his actions in the moments leading up to the  incident.

The rule change would settle years of debate over whether the commission  can make a determination that a shooting violated department policy if the  officer created a situation in which deadly force was necessary, the Los  Angeles Times reported. Until now, the commission has generally focused on the  narrow question of whether an officer faced a deadly threat at the moment he  opened fire.

``This is one of the most significant policy decisions we've made in my  seven years on the commission," Robert Saltzman told The Times.

Although only a few words would be added to the existing policy,  Saltzman said, ``the clarification is significant. Some have interpreted our  current policy to suggest the commission should ignore all the officer's pre- force activity, no matter how relevant those earlier actions are."

The proposal was submitted by the commission's inspector general, who  reviews officer shootings and makes recommendations to the commission on  whether they fall within or outside department policy. Along with Saltzman, it  has won the support of commission President Steve Soboroff, The Times reported.

For decades, the commission has followed a multi-step process in officer  shootings and other deadly force cases. Instead of making a single decision  on whether the officer was right to fire, it divides incidents into separate  parts. It first decides if the officer's actions leading up to the shooting were  acceptable. Then it judges the officer's decision to draw his weapon, and  finally the shooting itself.

Most of the time, the process works. In the majority of cases, officers  are cleared of any wrongdoing. And when the commission does find that an  officer made mistakes early on in an encounter, it is usually clear that those  missteps did not lead to the officer's decision to use deadly force, according  to The Times.

But in a few cases each year the line separating an officer's decision  to fire at a suspect from his actions beforehand is difficult or impossible to  find, according to The Times.