Police

Report: All 50 States Lack "Accountability Mechanisms" for Use of Lethal Force by Police

Amnesty International report calls for "nationwide review" and "collection and publication of nationwide statistics on police shootings."

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Amnesty International has just released a comprehensive study of the policies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia regarding "Police Use of Lethal Force." The report is "based on a state-by-state legislative survey of use of lethal force statutes within the United States."

Some major takeaways:

What's behind this?
Tony Webster/Flickr
  • The United States has failed to track how many people are killed by law enforcement officers. No-one knows exactly how many people are killed each year but estimates range from 400 to over 1,000.  
  • African Americans are disproportionately impacted by police killings, according to the limited data available. While blacks represent 13.2 per cent of the US population, they represent 27.6 per cent of the total deaths at the hands of police (6,338) included in the data on violent deaths recorded by the Center for Disease Control between 1999 and 2013.
  • Nine states and Washington, D.C. have no laws on use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.
  • None of the state statutes require that the use of lethal force may only be used as a last resort with non-violent and less harmful means to be tried first. 
  • No state limits the use of lethal force to only those situations where there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury to the officer or to others.
  • Only eight states require that a warning be given (where feasible) before lethal force is used, however no state meets the requirement for a warning under international standards.
  • Twenty two states allow for law enforcement officers to kill someone trying to escape from a prison or jail.
  • None of the states' "use of lethal force" statutes include accountability mechanisms, including for example the requirement of obligatory reporting for the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officers. 

The report repeatedly stresses the point that all 50 states and DC fail to meet "international human rights law and standards" regarding use of lethal force by police.

Invoking international law rarely moves the needle when it comes to reforming U.S. domestic policies, but as noted many times here at Reason, the report cites the lack of a national database regarding the use of lethal force or uniform requirements on law enforcement agencies' reporting of such data as an inexcusable failure of government. 

Among the reports "Key Recommendations":

  • The president and Department of Justice (DOJ) should support the creation of a national commission (National Crime and Justice Task Force) to examine and produce recommendations on policing issues, including a nationwide review of police use of lethal force laws, policies, training and practices, which is urgently needed, as well as a thorough review and reform of oversight and accountability mechanisms. These laws, policies and practices must be brought in line with international standards. 
  • The Department of Justice must ensure the collection and publication of nationwide statistics on police shootings in accordance with the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act (1994) and the Death in Custody Act (2014). The data collected should be disaggregated on the basis of race, gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity and indigenous status.

Read the whole report here, and definitely don't skip the state-by-state analysis, beginning on page 34.

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  1. How would police departments be compelled into complying with this? Yeah. Exactly.

    1. Sending cops to prison? Taking individual cops wealth in civil suits?

      1. I fail to see how that will compel departments to report numbers to the feds.

    2. Withholding of federal grant money?

      1. That’s about the only thing I can think of, though I fail to see why any police department should be receiving federal money anyway.

        1. And it might have the undesirable effect of them cracking down on us plebes even more to make up for the budget shortfall.

          *shivers*

  2. So the problem is with the states and municipalities, but the solution is federal?

  3. Ah yes, toothless commissions and unenforceable statistics collection. The same fucking “solutions” that are put forward every fucking time.

    Here’s the deal: no one with the power to make or spur changes has any desire to do so. None. This is why nothing changes. We’re finally seeing some more attention from the public, which can conceivably cause some politicians to react, but overall, the police behave mostly in the way that the politicians want them to: as a goon squad who collects revenue and knows to leave their masters alone, and in return are free to fuck with everyone else as they see fit.

    I mean, that’s what the police are for.

  4. OT: Piers Morgan weighs in on the Charleston shooting…

    1. Just as dumb as I thought he’d be.

      1. Any bets that he knows all about the historical origins of gun control in America? I mean, he certainly enjoys lecturing us from his lofty position of superiority as British journalist – so of course he’s looked into it. Right?

        1. Disarming Loyalists?

          1. More to the point on the racial angle, black codes.

          2. Disarming black folks.

      1. Sounds like a methodically sound study conducted by a serious research group with absolutely no ideological reasons for reaching the conclusion they did.

      2. Well, at least the president isn’t jumping into the breach in a classless display of political opportunism. Oh, wait, yes he is. And he also apparently doesn’t consider France, Norway, Australia, Israel, etc. “advanced countries.”

        “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

        1. FFS, he said that?! What a statesman.

        2. And Obama, “At some point we as a country have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass murder doesn’t happen in other countries.”

          https://goo.gl/20HRgp

  5. “While blacks represent 13.2 per cent of the US population, they represent 27.6 per cent of the total deaths at the hands of police (6,338) included in the data on violent deaths recorded by the Center for Disease Control between 1999 and 2013.”

    Given that they represent an even larger share of violent crimes (around 50% according to the BJS), wouldn’t that meant they are being killed at a lower rate than whites?

    1. Don’t let facts get in the way, there’s a narrative to advance.

  6. Redneck Adam Lanza confirmed

    “I said he was like 19 years old, he still didn’t have a job, a driver’s license or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time,” Cowles said in a telephone interview.

    1. That’s what I thought. Loser who found white supremacist literature and snapped.

    2. Wait, so an asshole who randomly shoots a bunch of people is a mental case? Who could have predicted this?

      1. Introversion is a mental illness now?

        1. I was focused more on the shooting people, but I concede your point.

    3. Fuck that guy. What the fuck is wrong with people?

    4. Good luck trying to pass bullshit gun control laws in South Carolina, though.

      1. I think the fear is a federal bill at this point.

        1. I consider that unlikely with our current congress, but I’ll keep my shocked face handy.

          1. I wouldn’t put anything past craven politicians of any color.

          2. I consider that unlikely with our current congress,

            I don’t, anymore.

            The Republican leadership is fighting for Obama’s trade bill like rabid wolverines. They seem devoted to passing what he wants, damn the torpedoes and their constituents. The only brake on Obama at this point is the lefty Dems, and they aren’t going to stop a gun control bill.

  7. They got the Charleston shooter.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..tured.html

  8. This comes as a surprise to exactly zero libertarians.

    The left, however, will view this as a justification for more power and more bureaucracy, rather than seeing that the obvious solution is to take away power from these thugs. Obviously, the problem is a lack of sensitivity training.

  9. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have no laws on use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

    So then it’s no more or less legal for cops than for the rest of us?

  10. “No state limits the use of lethal force to only those situations where there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury to the officer or to others.”

    I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I wouldn’t want that to be the standard in self-defense cases.

    I like the standard that if a jury of your peers doesn’t vote unanimously to convict you of manslaughter or murder, then you aren’t guilty of manslaughter or murder.

    Holding everybody to the same standard in all situations isn’t justice. Ensuring everyone’s rights are protected in every situation is justice. Every individual in every individual situation should be treated individually.

    1. An impressive word salad, Ken, that manages to sound almost rational until you realize it means:

      There is no law, there is only what juries decide, and if there was law, it would be inherently unjust.

      1. The biggest problem is that cops are hardly ever put in front of a jury.

        The biggest reasons for that have to do with DAs being highly dependent on political machines for being in office and those machines often being dominated by the police unions.

        If juries are biased in favor of cops, I don’t know what to do about that, but changing the laws to limit the use of lethal force isn’t about to address the problem of cops so rarely getting in front of a jury for misbehavior.

        But it almost certainly will make it more likely that people shooting in self-defense are tried more often and with less discretion left to the jury as to whether a shooting was justified.

  11. “The data collected should be disaggregated on the basis of race, gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity and indigenous status.”

    Gender identity?

    Do we want to get cops to stop screwing with everyone or just certain groups?

    1. Do we want to get cops to stop screwing with everyone or just certain groups?

      From the perspective of the left, the problem isn’t cops abusing their power. The problem is that they’re abusing it unequally. If they abused everyone equally, then the left would stop complaining.

  12. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have no laws on use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

    Pretty sure they do, unless the laws against assault and murder specifically exclude the cops.

    What you mean to say is that 41 states have special privileges on the books for cops who use lethal force. The other nine don’t have explicit privileges for cops who use lethal force, but manage to take care of them anyway.

  13. Well, it’s either get executed, or, face the long short arm of the law.

  14. How about just enforcing the reasonableness requirement when they say they feared for their lives?

  15. No mention of Qualified Immunity?

  16. So when cops jump on people’s hoods and shoot them when they are unarmed, or shoot people that are escaping their violence in the back, or shoot an unarmed individual numerous times when he was just trying to get his wallet……..they don’t talk about restricting or banning cops.

    When time and time again, it is shown that free individuals bearing arms acts as a deterrent to crime, and leads to a lower crime rate, folks ignore it, and instead want everyone to be disarmed so they can feel good about themselves. That is until they are a victim and wish they could defend their family in the moment when it is too late. These people have no problem sacrificing the lives of other people and deny them their right to self defense so they can feel better about banning Tools of self defense.

    These are the same ideas that allowed history’s tyrants to restrict or ban firearms, only to impose more slavery or violence against individuals.

  17. “Amnesty International” is one of the biggest jokes around.
    Maybe the only one bigger is the group that thinks we would do just fine without law enforcement.
    Fortunately, sane people ignore both.

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