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Police Use of Deadly Force

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1 Police Use of Deadly Force
PSCI 2481

2 Within a 10 month period, four NYC police officers were killed in the line of duty. In the tense aftermath, a city policeman shot and killed a fleeing suspect. A New York Times editorial sharply declared: “If a policeman needs to defend his life, the use of force is permissible, but if he is chasing a suspect, he has no right to shoot the man.” The year was 1857.

3 Questions How much shooting -- not only by but of the police -- is there now? Is the picture significantly different from city to city? What rules govern officer discretion to shoot? How controllable are police shootings?

4 CRIME FILE The Panel: Officer Dick Hickman (Dallas Police Officers Association) Chief Neil Behan (Baltimore County) Prof. James Fyfe (Professor of Criminology at American University, former NYC police officer, and the drunk driver in “Search & Seizure”)

5 What do we learn from Crime File?
Changes in the law/department policies matter. Restrict policies reduce shootings Restrictive policies do not make officers less safe The context matters Minorities and police officers are shot more in high crime areas Minorities and police are hurt more when they are increasingly likely to be exposed to violence

6 Tennessee v. Garner The Details:
A Tennessee statute provides that if, after a police officer has given notice of an intent to arrest a criminal suspect, the suspect flees or forcibly resists, "the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest." Acting under the authority of this statute, a Memphis police officer shot and killed Garner's son as, after being told to halt, the son fled over a fence at night in the backyard of a house he was suspected of burglarizing. The officer used deadly force despite being "reasonably sure" the suspect was unarmed and thinking that he was 17 or 18 years old and of slight build. The father subsequently brought an action in Federal District Court, seeking damages under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 for asserted violations of his son's constitutional rights. At about 10:45 p. m. on October 3, 1974, Memphis Police Officers Elton Hymon and Leslie Wright were dispatched to answer a "prowler inside call." Upon arriving at the scene they saw a woman standing on her porch and gesturing toward the adjacent house. She told them she had heard glass breaking and that "they" or "someone" was breaking in next door. While Wright radioed the dispatcher to say that they were on the scene, Hymon went behind the house. He heard a door slam and saw someone run across the backyard. The fleeing suspect, who was appellee-respondent's decedent, Edward Garner, stopped at a 6-feet-high chain link fence at the edge of the yard. With the aid of a flashlight, Hymon was able to see Garner's face and hands. He saw no sign of a weapon, and, though not certain, was "reasonably sure" and "figured" that Garner was unarmed. He thought Garner was 17 or 18 years old and about 5'5" or 5'7" tall. While Garner was crouched at the base of the fence, Hymon called out "police, halt" and took a few steps toward him. Garner then began to climb over the fence. Convinced that if Garner made it over the fence he would elude capture, Hymon shot him. The bullet hit Garner in the back of the head. Garner was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died on the operating table. Ten dollars and a purse taken from the house were found on his body.

7 Tennessee v. Garner The Decision
In March 1985, the US Supreme Court decides that more than half of all state laws governing the police use of deadly force are unconstitutionally permissive. A NEW minimum standard is established – police may not shoot at an unarmed fleeing felon: “The Tennessee statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against…an apparently unarmed, nondangerous fleeing suspect; such force may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

8 Katz v. USA (Less Than Deadly Force)
This case arises out of Katz's arrest for his conduct during a speech given by Vice President Gore at the Presidio Army base in San Francisco in Katz, an animal rights activist, seeks damages from the police for violating his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force. 9th Circuit ruling: Police do not automatically get immunity from prosecution simply because they are government employees if they behave unreasonably.

9 Denver – The Paul Childs Shooting

10 Precursors to the Shooting
Jan. 30, 2002: Denver Police Officer James Turney and Sgt. Bob Silvas shoot and kill Gregory L. Smith, 18, as he came up the stairs of his home armed with a knife. Oct. 25: Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter announces that no charges will be filed against the officers in the shooting because of a lack of evidence. July 4, 2003: Turney allegedly phoned his former mother-in-law In Iowa and threatened to kill her. Later, Iowa prosecutors agree to drop the misdemeanor harassment charge against Turney in exchange for his promise not to have any contact with her for five years.

11 July 5, 2003 Paul Childs James Turney


13 Who was most responsible for Paul Childs death?
Officer James Turney? (the actual shooter) The 911 Operator? (who communicated information to the responding officers) The Denver Police Department? (for its training and oversight) Paul Childs family (for calling the police) Paul Childs (for failing to obey police instructions) The Community/Society? (Does it really take a village to raise a child?)

14 How do we prevent another Paul Childs from dying?
Police training? Restrictions on the use of deadly force? Technology? New methods of oversight? Legal penalties? or We can’t keep these things from happening.

15 July 8: Turney is suspended with pay while internal affairs investigates.
* July 10: A community march to demand justice for Childs draws about 600 people. * Oct. 16: Ritter concludes that Turney perceived the boy, armed with a knife with an 8-inch blade, as an imminent threat. Consequently, Ritter said Turney could not be charged with a crime. * Oct. 20: A group of protesters gathered outside Denver Police headquarters to demand that Turney be fired. Four people are ticketed after they sat in front of the headquarters' doors and refused to leave. * Dec. 16: Mayor John Hickenlooper orders a comprehensive package of police reforms, including additional training for police, more alternative weapons and increased citizen oversight.

16 * Jan. 6, 2004: Childs' family files notice of its intent to seek at least $5 million from the city in a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations. * Feb. 17: Attorney Johnnie Cochran and members of Childs' family met with Hickenlooper and urge him to seek the removal of Turney. * Mar. 1: A police disciplinary review board recommends that officer Jim Turney receive a written reprimand for his role in the shooting death of Paul Childs. The board, made up of four officers and two civilians, reduced a recommendation by an all-officer panel to suspend Turney for 30 days. * April 1: Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman recommends a 20-day suspension without pay for Turney. * April 2: The Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance calls on Hickenlooper to push for a minimum one-year suspension of Turney.

17 Final Results Childs family settle civil lawsuit with City of Denver for $1.3 million Turney gets 5 day suspension and desk assignment. Other results?

18 Writing Policy to Govern the Use of Deadly Force
Houston PD Denver PD

19 Houston PD Use of Deadly Force
The Houston Police Department’s policy regarding the use of firearms sets forth the general values which must guide officers’ actions. The policy is as follows: • The use of firearms is never to be considered routine, is permissible only in defense of life, and then only when all other means have been exhausted. The Department’s policy is based on a belief that its primary duty is to protect life. Police officers, therefore, are to use firearms only to protect their lives or the lives of others. Since the use of firearms has the potential to endanger life, it should occur only when there is no other alternative. This means that officers are to use their firearms only when failure to do so would result in death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others,. In situations where officers consider using firearms, they must carefully determine whether it is probable that someone will be killed or injured as a direct result of the observed actions of the suspect.

20 The Details Do not shoot unless your life or someone else’s is in immediate danger. Always use the minimum force necessary to accomplish your mission. Do everything possible to de-escalate situations. so that you do not have to resort to the use of firearms. If the suspects’ actions do not pose a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to persons other than themselves, do not discharge your firearms to achieve an arrest. Shoot only to protect life and never to protect property. Assess the immediate danger posed by the suspect’s actions rather than characterize the person as dangerous. Get out of the way of vehicles rather than shoot at them. Never fire warning shots. Do not draw or display your firearm unless you have probable cause to believe that you will have to discharge it in order to protect life.

21 Denver PD A police officer may resort to the lawful use of firearms under the following conditions when he reasonably believes that it is necessary: To defend himself or a 3rd party from deadly physical force To effect an arrest or prevent the escape of a person Who has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving a deadly weapon or Is attempting to escape by means of a deadly weapon or Who otherwise indicates except through motor vehicle violation that he is likely to endanger human life. It is necessary, “when feasible”, to give some warning before engaging in the use of deadly force. If possible identify yourself as a police officer, give the command you want followed and state your intention to shoot. Police officers may also kill dangerous animals or one that humane treatment requires its removal from further suffering. Police officers may (logically) participate in authorized training as a target range or any legitimate sporting activity involving the use of firearms.

22 Denver PD Officers will not discharge their weapons under the following conditions: At another person unless the circumstances are such that the officer would be justified under the law if the shot killed the person. As a warning shot Firing at or from a moving vehicle Firing shots where there is a likelihood of serious injury to persons other than the individual to be apprehended.

23 The Police Perspective
The Danger on the Street



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