Filed Under: U.S.

Deadly physical force: when are police justified in firing their guns?

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Deadly physical force is an officer’s ability to fire his gun in dangerous situations.

Critics scrutinize that ability as body-cam videos of police shootings are released to the public. They say personal bias plays a large role in an officer’s decision to pull the trigger. But the law states that an officer is justified as long as he’s protecting a life.

 

Shannon Longworth: APRIL 20TH, 2021.

COLUMBUS, OHIO.

THIS BODY-CAM VIDEO SHOWS THE MOMENTS LEADING UP TO THE INSTANT AN OFFICER SHOOTS 16-YEAR-OLD MA’KHIA BRYANT.

SHE DIES.

PAULA BRYANT: “SHE HAD A FULL LIFE AHEAD OF HER THAT ENDED IN A TRAGEDY.”

JUST A FEW WEEKS EARLIER IN CHICAGO…

POLICE SHOT AND KILLED 13-YEAR-OLD ADAM TOLEDO.

TWO CASES OF DEADLY POLICE SHOOTINGS.

BOTH CAPTURED WITH BODY CAMERAS.

AND BOTH RAISING THIS QUESTION ONCE AGAIN:

WHEN ARE POLICE JUSTIFIED IN PULLING THE TRIGGER?

THE SUSPECTS’ FAMILIES ALSO WANT TO KNOW–

WOULD THE OFFICERS HAVE REACTED DIFFERENTLY IF THE SUSPECTS WERE WHITE?

BEFORE WE DIVE DEEPER, LET’S LOOK AT THE BODY CAM VIDEO AGAIN:

IN THE CASE OF MA’KHIA BRYANT: THE OFFICER APPROACHES, SEES BRYANT HOLDING A KNIFE, AND SHOOTS HER AS SHE LUNGES AT A WOMAN STANDING NEARBY.

THE OFFICER’S DEFENSE IS THAT THE WOMAN’S LIFE WAS IN DANGER.

HERE, WE SEE 13-YEAR-OLD ADAM TOLEDO RUNNING FROM POLICE WITH A GUN.

HE STOPS AND DROPS THE GUN.

WITHIN SECONDS, THE OFFICER’S BULLET HITS HIS CHEST.

SO, BACK TO THE QUESTION:

WHEN ARE POLICE JUSTIFIED IN FIRING THEIR WEAPONS?

“OFFICERS ARE TRAINED TO USE DEADLY PHYSICAL FORCE WHEN THEIR LIFE OR ANOTHER PERSON’S LIFE IS IN DANGER.”

SEEMS SIMPLE ENOUGH: POLICE ARE JUSTIFIED IN USING THEIR GUNS WHEN THERE’S A THREAT TO LIFE.

BUT IS THAT *TOO* SIMPLE?

WELL, FOR ONE THING, THE LAWS DIFFER FROM STATE TO STATE.

CURRENTLY, 41 STATES HAVE LAWS CLARIFYING WHEN A POLICE OFFICER MAY USE THEIR GUN, ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES.

SOME VERY CLEARLY LAY OUT WHEN IT’S ALLOWED.

LIKE NEVADA.

THE LAW THERE ALLOWS AN OFFICER TO USE DEADLY FORCE WHEN A VIOLENT CRIME IS HAPPENING OR THERE’S A THREAT OF ONE.

WHILE IN OTHER STATES, LIKE CALIFORNIA, IT’S NOT SO CLEAR.

THERE, DEADLY FORCE IS ALLOWED AS “JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE”–KILLING ANOTHER PERSON WITHOUT EVIL INTENT.

NOW, CRITICS LIKE ACTIVIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR DR. RASHAD RICHEY SAY THE ISSUE IS THAT POLICE PERCEIVE A THREAT DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE MANY HAVE AN UNCONSCIOUS BIAS AGAINST MINORITIES.

DR. RASHAD RICHEY: “THE ALLOWANCE IS GREAT. THE ALLOWANCE IS MASSIVE.”

HE SAYS WHAT CONSTITUTES A THREAT IS ARBITRARY – BECAUSE NO ONE’S

IN THAT OFFICER’S HEAD, SEEING WHAT THEY’RE SEEING…FEELING WHAT THEY’RE FEELING.

RICHEY: “AND THAT’S WHERE THE BIASES COMES IN. IMPLICIT BIAS MEANS YOU’RE NOT CONSCIOUSLY AWARE OF YOUR BIAS.”

AT A HIGHER RATE WHEN MINORITIES ARE INVOLVED.

THE ONLINE DATABASE, MAPPING POLICE VIOLENCE, SHOWS POLICE KILLED 1,127 PEOPLE LAST YEAR.

48 PERCENT OF THOSE PEOPLE WERE BLACK OR HISPANIC, WHILE ONLY MAKING UP 30 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION.

SO RICHEY IS CALLING FOR BETTER TRAINING IN DE-ESCALATION TACTICS AND OTHER, LESS-LETHAL FORMS OF DEFENSE.

SOMETHING POLICE SAY ALREADY EXISTS:

DEAN ESSERMAN: “USING A GUN IS SOMETHING NO COP EVER WANTS TO DO.”

FORMER CHIEF DEAN ESSERMAN SAYS SHOOTING IS ALWAYS THE LAST RESORT.

AND OFFICERS ARE TAUGHT SEVERAL WAYS TO GAIN CONTROL OVER A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION.

ESSERMAN: “YOU ESCALATE ONLY TO THE LEVEL YOU NEED TO GET COMPLIANCE.”

IN CASES OF MA’KHIA BRYANT AND ADAM TOLEDO, OFFICERS CAN ARGUE THEY SAW A DIRECT THREAT TO SOMEONE’S LIFE, THEY NEEDED TO MAKE A SPLIT-SECOND DECISION, AND THEIR ONLY OPTION WAS TO SHOOT.

OTHERS, LIKE DR. RICHEY, WILL ARGUE THAT POLICE WOULD HAVE SEEN THINGS DIFFERENTLY IF THE SUSPECTS HAD BEEN WHITE.

HE SAYS, THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE PULLED THE TRIGGER SO QUICKLY.

SO NOW, AS YOU WATCH THESE VIDEOS, YOU CAN DECIDE IF THE OFFICER WAS OBJECTIVELY REASONABLE…LEGALLY JUSTIFYING HIS ESCALATION TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF FORCE.

DON’T FORGET TO RATE THIS STORY ON OUR BIAS METER.

Deadly physical force is an officer’s ability to fire his gun in dangerous situations.

Critics scrutinize that ability as body-cam videos of police shootings are released to the public. They say personal bias plays a large role in an officer’s decision to pull the trigger. But the law states that an officer is justified as long as he’s protecting a life.

 

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