When can deadly force be used?

Deadly force is the term for when a police officer kills someone to diffuse a crime in progress or protect the public. While there is a legitimate way for this to be done if the officer fears for their life or the lives of innocent bystanders, it should only be used as a last resort when other measures fail. There have been plenty of situations where officers have been disciplined, sued in civil court, or even faced criminal charges for using deadly force at inappropriate times. 

Use of force protocols

All times when police are permitted to use force and violence against suspects are governed by use of force protocols. Because police are considered law enforcement professionals who are subject to oversight and require training in a police academy, they must also follow behavioral and ethical standards like many other professional workers. 

A use of force protocol is a standard that police use to determine how they can respond to any threat of violent behavior. Their response can be calculated to neutralize the threat, but they generally cannot use more force than necessary to diffuse a situation. 

Times when deadly force is appropriate

Police definitely are allowed to use deadly force, but only in very limited circumstances where they need to protect themselves or others who are nearby. There needs to be an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death. An example might be something like an armed robbery or mass shooting in progress. One of the reasons why police are given firearms is so that deadly force can be utilized to stop violent crime. This is especially true in a country like the United States where many people own guns and criminals do shoot and kill several innocent people each year. 

Excessive use of force

If police do use deadly force, there is usually a related excessive use of force claim that will be investigated by the department’s internal affairs and a local prosecutor. Many police brutality cases are related to excessive use of force. This means that police went beyond their standard use of force protocols when they made an arrest and detained a suspect. 

There have been a number of cases where police have used deadly force on suspects who were unarmed or had only a small non-lethal weapon. In almost all of these cases, the use of deadly force would be considered inappropriate. 

Remedies for excessive use of force

Aside from reporting the use of force to the local police department and allowing them to investigate, the victim can file a lawsuit in civil court. These civil cases can be filed independently of anything that happens with criminal charges or an internal affairs investigation. Various federal civil rights laws are in the United States statutes, which say that government employees cannot abuse their authority by harming members of the public. Excessive use of force cases have been brought under these federal laws.  

Learn more about excessive use of force claims

There are a number of lawyers around the country who focus on cases related to police misconduct. You can use the directory on USAttorneys.com to find a police brutality lawyer in your area. 

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