Saturday, October 10, 2015

United States Police Officers Use Lethal Force More Than Other Countries

Wilmington Delaware Police Officers
 confronting Jeremy McDole.
YouTube Video Screenshot

While sitting in his wheelchair, police killed Jeremy McDole. Wilmington, Delaware police repeatedly told McDole to drop his gun, even though there was no gun visible, but as he slid his hand up his thigh towards his waist, they shot him. McDole is the latest casualty in an epidemic of police killings across the country. It’s a problem, beyond what is apparent, because statistics reveal police officers in the United States kill more in days than other countries do in years.


The main reason is lethal force laws in the United States fail to meet international laws and standards. Amnesty International found state laws governing the use of lethal force by police are in most cases inadequate or do not exist.

The allocation of powers between states and the federal government are the reason there is no consistent federal law governing each state’s use of lethal force. States’ rights provisions of the United States Constitution’s Tenth Amendment give certain reserved powers that only states possess. Laws governing actions of municipal and state police are one of them.

The proliferation of guns and their prevalence, exacerbated by a lack of adequate gun laws, means police officers have to be prepared for the worst when confronting a citizen. As in the case of McDole, any unanticipated move may be mistaken as someone reaching for a gun.

However, the possession of a gun isn’t always a factor that allows police officers to use lethal force. Some states allow the use of lethal force to suppress resistance to arrest by someone suspected of a felony, suppressing a riot, or resisting arrest for crimes such as burglary. A number of statutes allow officers to use lethal force to prevent an escape from a prison or jail. Others allow private citizens to use lethal force if they are carrying out law enforcement activities.

Moreover, when police use lethal force, the number of shots fired is usually excessive, and not necessary to subdue someone. That’s because their intent is not to neutralize but to kill, because their training, it seems, is to target center mass rather than wound suspects so they are incapable of harming themselves or others.

Increasing numbers of police killings indicate a need for federal laws governing municipal and state police use of lethal force, which would universally define conditions under which force is used.

The overriding issue, at all levels, is the United States has a significant gun problem that it refuses to correct.

© Copyright 2015 Horatio Green


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