Deadly force is an amount of force that is likely to cause either serious bodily injury or death to another person (Griffin, T. J,1971). Firearms, bladed, weapons, explosives, and vehicles are among those weapons the use of which would be considered deadly force. The rules that guide the use of deadly on force on citizens differ depending on the circumstances and even the places. For instance where the person in question is posing danger to the people around, then the police can use deadly to restrain the individual. Here force is used to protect the public from harm, which is justifiable. The rules guiding the use of deadly force have changed greatly over the years. In the twelfth century, deadly force was allowed regardless of the circumstances. This was in line with common law, which gave discretion to the police to decide when and when not to use deadly force if they needed to arrest a person. However, in the modern day society, the police have been stripped of the discretion to determine when to use deadly force. Instead courts have restricted the use of deadly force to a few selected and dangerous situations. The police should only use deadly force as a last resort when all other means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed. This use of deadly force by the police must be justifiable under the prevailing circumstances at the time.
When is the use of deadly force justifiable?
Deadly force is only justified as a last resort. This is especially, if there is significant threat of death or bodily harm to yourself or the people around you. However this is a question of judgment which is left to the interpretation of the person who feels his or her life is danger. Even with that, the use of force given the circumstances the degree of judgment and subsequent use of force should be reasonable. Note that the use of force is not permitted and thus against the law, but it is justified in some instances. This will be explained in detail below.
The police in more than one instance in their career have come face to face with many scenarios in which their lives were in danger. Many security officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. Whereas the use of deadly force is illegal, there are exceptions to this law, especially in the event of self defense. Police officers are allowed to use deadly force in the event that, they feel that there life is threatened in any way. However, the police officer should use the amount of force that is reasonable and necessary in the situation as judged by what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances. The police officer is only allowed to respond with deadly force in a scenario where the aggressor uses or attempts to use deadly force.
Defense of other is another situation where deadly force is justified. A police officer or any person for that matter is allowed to use deadly force in the defense of another person. This is not only justified in the public domain, but also, a defense in court. The force used however should not only be reasonable but also necessary given the circumstances at the time. The degree of reasonableness and necessesity is left to the person and public for judgment and hence action befitting the situation. In many instances police officers and citizens alike have been caught on the wrong side of the law and made to justify the amount of force used against another person while defending others or themselves. However deadly force has proved to make things work in the right way and thus ensure public safety to all.
In order to prevent crime, deadly force is justified especially if the suspects do abide by orders from a police to surrender. The responsibility of security officers is to restrain criminals and as a result eradicate criminals. A police officer in the line of duty can unleash deadly force on an individual in order to prevent a crime. However the force should be reasonable and befitting the situation at that moment in time. In situations where criminals take hostages and hold them at gun point, or try to access a sensitive places where they are not allowed, for instances the residence of a president or institutions such as banks or other public places with intent to commit a crime, deadly force is without doubt justified. This is especially where the suspects defy orders to stand down.
Enforcement of laws in any given place is not always welcome. Some people may defy the law, throw common sense to the wind and insist on having their way. This is evident all over the world. For instance in war torn Somalia is an instance where, a certain faction would like to have its way. This kind of defiance with total disregard of the law affects the country and the lives of the people in general. In light of this, use of deadly force is justified, if only to ensure that the people adhere to the laws of the land. If police cannot use necessary force to enforce the laws, then there is no need to have the laws in place. A person who willingly defies the law of the land should be forced to adhere to it even if it means deadly force.
Any other circumstance, other than the situations mentioned above, would warrant use of deadly force illegal. However this is a matter subject to the interpretation of the courts. However, each of the circumstances has strict requirements that must be met to avoid criminal liability. Since laws vary from state to state, local laws should be consulted for the applicable requirements in the areas of concern.
Real Life Situations
One encounter of the police that lead them to use deadly force was is in Amarillo, Texas. This incident occurred early in the Sunday morning of 30th January 2011 on Polk Street. Amarillo police officers were within a block of the shootings when first shots were fired. They chased and tasered one person and found a gun near him. Three young men continued to fire shots and after being ordered to stop, drove their vehicle at the police who responded by firing their weapons. Brent Barbee of the Amarillo Police Department said the following statement to justify the use of deadly force, " Shooting out a tire is nearly impossible and not guaranteed to stop a vehicle. On television it always works but not in real life. We do not draw firearms unless we're in a situation that require deadly force. We don't use it as a stop gap measure to stop a vehicle."
Another incident of police use of deadly force occurred in Danville, Illinois. On the Saturday of 27th November 2010, deputies at the Vermilion Sheriff Office responded to a 911 call for a report of a man destroying property inside his apartment at 2423 Georgetown Road, near Maplewood Avenue south of Danville. The police had been called by the building's landlord after he had received information that the resident was destroying property inside the apartment and after confirming seeing damage inside the apartment. Additional property was damaged while the police were there and three Vermilion deputies entered the department and approached the subject, Michael J. Brandel, to place him under arrest. The deputies deployed a taser to try and control the subject after he refused to comply with their commands. The subject continued to resist and began thrusting a sharpened piece of broken wood toward the deputies. This was when one of the deputies fired his semi-automatic weapon pistol three times, striking the subject who was pronounced dead on the scene. One of the deputies received minor injuries during the incident. The Illinois State Police Zone 5, which investigates shootings that involve police officers, were requested by the sheriff's office to investigate the matter.
In the state of Iowa in 1930, a sheriff faced a wrongful death suit after killing a misdemeanor suspect. The sheriff, while in the process of arresting the misdemeanor suspect, shot him dead. In court, the sheriff claimed that he used deadly force in order to defend himself and the court ruled in his favor. In Seattle, Washington, on the 21st of March 1999, police officers were pursuing a fleeing robbery suspect on Burke Gilman Trail. The suspect shot at the officers and the officers returned fire. The suspect was shot several times but the incident was non-fatal.
The use of deadly force by the police is an issue that has been a major discussion point through the years. The issue of whether it is justifiable or not is the major talking point when it comes to the use of deadly force. The laws relating to police use of deadly force have been modified over time in order to restrict the use of deadly force. There are specific situations where the police are justified, at least legally, in using deadly force. However, the use of deadly force should only be used as last resort after all other means have failed or are not applicable due to the prevailing circumstances. Some of the circumstances that are taken into consideration are the severity of the offence, how much of that a threat the suspect poses, and the suspect's attempts to resist or flee the police officer.