Police Use of Deadly Force – Part 2 – Solving the Problem

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

In yesterday's posting, I looked at the use of excessive and deadly force by America's police forces and some of the reasons behind why police are no longer regarded by many Americans as their protectors in time of need.  In this posting, I want to look at actions that could be taken to reduce police violence across the United States.

With America's police forces once again coming under severe public scrutiny for their actions in Minneapolis, a group called Campaign Zero believes that:

"We can live in a world where the police don't kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions and ensuring accountability."

Campaign Zero notes that over 1,000 Americans are killed by police every year.  Here is a graphic showing the basic policies that need to be implemented to change the way that police forces deal with the communities that pay their salaries:

Police Use Deadly Force,

I'd like to focus on one policy that could positively impact interactions with America's policemen and policewomen; limiting the use of force.  Here are the recommendations of Campaign Zero:

A.) Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force:

1.) Authorize the used of deadly force only when there is an imminent threat to an officer's life or the life of another person and used only when all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.  

Here is a look at an excerpt from the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials :

"Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.

Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall:

(a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved;

(b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life;

(c) Ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment;

(d) Ensure that relatives or close friends of the injured or affected person are notified at the earliest possible moment.

Where injury or death is caused by the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, they shall report the incident promptly to their superiors, in accordance with principle 

Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law."

Exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any departure from these basic principles.

Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." (my bolds)

According to Amnesty International, nine states allow police to use deadly force to suppress a riot and no states have laws that meet international standards for police use of deadly force.

2.) Require that an officer's tactical conduct and decisions leading up to using deadly force be considered in judgements of whether such force was necessary.  Here is an example from the Los Angeles Police Department Policy on the Use of Force – Revised (2017):

Police Use Deadly Force,

3.) Require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force and give people a reasonable amount of time to comply with the warning.  Here is an example from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department:

Police Use Deadly Force,

4.) Require reporting of police killings and serious injuries of civilians.  Here is an excerpt from the Police Reporting, Information, Data and Evidence Act of 2015 (PRIDE Act):

Police Use Deadly Force,

5.) Require the names of both the officer or officers involved and the victim or victims within 72 hours of a deadly force incident.  Here is an example from the Philadelphia Police Department Use of Force – Involving the Discharge of Firearms guidelines:

Police Use Deadly Force,

B.) Revise and strengthen police use of force policies:

1.) restrict officers from using deadly force unless all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.

2.) use a minimum amount of force to apprehend a subject with specific guidelines regarding the types and levels of force that can be used for various levels of resistance to arrest.

3.) utilization of de-escalation techniques including creating distance, tactical repositioning and verbalization.

4.) equip police with less-lethal weapons.

5.) ban using force on persons for talking back or running away.

6.) ban chokeholds, strangleholds, hog-tying and transporting persons in a face-down position.

7.) intervene to stop other officers who are using excessive force and report them to a supervisor.

8.) equip police with first aid kits and train them to render medical assistance to any person in police custody who is injured.

In addition, Campaign Zero recommends that an early intervention system should be put in place to correct officers who use excessive force as such:

1.) report officers who receive two or more complaints in the past month.

2.) report officers who have two or more use of force incidents or complaints in the past quarter.

3.) require officers to attend re-training and be monitored by an immediate supervisor after their first quarterly report and terminate an officer following multiple reports.

Campaign Zero has some very well thought out solutions to the problem of the use of deadly force by America's police forces.  Unfortunately, decades of police "military-style corporate culture" and the "blue wall of silence" means that meaningful changes to the policies regarding the use of deadly force will continue to be ignored despite the fact that an average of three Americans die at the hands of police officers every day. 

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