All 50 U.S. States Fail to Meet Global Standards on Police Use of Lethal Force

Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA 2.0

A report by Amnesty International USA found that each and every U.S. state ran afoul of international standards on the use of lethal force by police officers.

In Pennsylvania, the study found, the “use of force statute” mandates that deadly force is justifiable if it is “necessary to suppress a riot or mutiny after the rioters or mutineers have been ordered to disperse.”

The Guardian reports that the study also says that 13 U.S. states fail “even lower legal standards enshrined in US constitutional law.”

Amnesty USA executive director Steven Hawkins told The Guardian the findings represented a “shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life.” …

The analysis, which Hawkins said he believed was the first of its kind, compared state statutes on law enforcement’s use of lethal force with international legislation, including the enshrinement of the right to life, as well as United Nations principles limiting lethal use of force to “unavoidable” instances “in order to protect life” after “less extreme means” have failed. Further UN guidelines state that officers should attempt to identify themselves and give warning of intent to use lethal force. …

The report arrived just weeks after the recommendations of Barack Obama’s police taskforce [the ‘ military gear’ stunt] were made public and his executive actions on police reform criticized for not going far enough to curtail police violence. The presidential commission stated that “not only should there be policies for deadly and non-deadly uses of force”, but that a “clearly stated ‘sanctity of life’ philosophy must also be in the forefront of every officer’s mind.”

The Amnesty review found that only eight states require a verbal warning to be given before an officer engages in lethal force. In nine states, law enforcement officers are legally allowed to use lethal force during riot.

Read more here.


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