The Use of the Lethal Force

Table of Content

The Fayetteville Police Department in Arkansas enforced a Less-Lethal Weapons and Defensive Tactics policy that went into effect November 15, 2016. This policy was created to ensure that “…officers use defensive tactics and less-lethal weapons when warranted, but only in a manner consistent with this agency’s use of force and in accordance with guidelines established in this policy and in the applicable general orders” (Fayetteville Police Department, 2016).

Using the Use-of-Force Continuum found on the National Institute of Justice website officer presence, verbalization, empty hand control, less-lethal methods and lethal force fall under the Fayetteville police Departments policy. Officer presence means that there has to be professionalism in the appearance and the uniform of the police officers. Do to the fact that they appear as such professionals the mere presence of an officer can prevent a crime from happening. Verbalizations refers to using the appropriate verbal, non-threatening responses and commands in certain situations. Failure to comply with the verbalizations could mean there is no prevention of crimes. Empty hand control is when there are soft empty hand techniques that are designed to control a situation. Less-lethal methods is the act of using slight force in order to control passive and defensive resistance. Lethal force is the last resort where officers use deadly weapons such as their firearms to stop an individual from their actions. In this policy it goes into depth on what scenarios fall under which procedure. This ensures the safety of the civilians and the police officers. The purpose is to establish specific guidelines that are authorized.

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The use of the lethal force is the last resort method which though is very effective when the life and health of police officers and civilians. The use of the lethal force involves the use of lethal weapon and focuses on the lethal use of the weapon to stop offenders. The main strength of this method of the struggle against offenders is the immediate elimination of threat from the part of the offender. The use of the lethal force is justified, when offenders represent the direct threat to police officers and offenders. For example, if an offender points a weapon, a gun at police officers or civilians, the use of the lethal weapon is virtually the only way to stop the offender and to prevent the threat of slaughtering civilians or police officers by the offender.

At the same time, there are cases, when no other methods do not work and cannot be applied to stop offenders from committing a murder or similar grave crime. In such a situation, the use of the lethal force is justified. At this point, it is possible to distinguish another strength of the use of the lethal force, this method is always possible to apply, when other methods do not work. In other words, this is the most efficient method that stops offenders, although this method stops offenders forever. Such high efficiency of the method is good, if the method is applied properly. The efficiency of this method leads to the immediate and effective prevention of crimes because, once used, the lethal method stops offenders and they will never commit crimes again.

Another strength of the use of the lethal weapon is the rise of the awareness of offenders that, if they disobey police officers and if they go too far in their crime, police officers can always apply the lethal force as the last resort method to stop them. In this regard, the lethal force method is effective because it helps to prevent new, grave crimes and discourages offenders from the desperate struggle against police officers or dangerous actions that threaten to the public safety, especially life and health of civilians and police officers.

The major weakness of the lethal force policy is the high risk of the excessive use of lethal force by police officers and cases of murdering of civilians by police officers by mistake. The police violence, especially in relation to minorities, has become the major problem that undermines the confidence of the public in the police and deteriorates relations between the police and the public. In this regard, the recent shooting of Philando Castile has sparkled a new wave of violence and confrontation between the police and the African American community as the police officer shot dead the African American during the traffic stop. However, this case was not the mere case of the police violence and shooting the motorist, but it is also the matter of accurate profiling and presence of gun because it is such a combination of these factors that has ultimately led to the shooting.

The shooting of Philando Castile was above all provoked by the profiling that made the police officer think that Philando Castile was very similar to a suspect involved in a robbery. The “wide-set nose” of the suspect was widely quoted in many media as the distinct feature that made the police officer suspicious about the driver. At the same time, such profiling indicates clearly to the racial background of the profiling strategy used by the police. The race-oriented profiling is one of the main factors that causes the growing tension between the police and African Americans because the latter grow frustrated because of the suspicious attitude from the part of the police, while the police fail to elaborate effective profiling strategies that help police officers to identify suspects regardless of the racial profiling.

Another and apparently the major problem was the presence of gun either real or presumable in the car of Philando Castile. The news media coverage of the shooting reveal two absolutely different versions of the presence of gun in the car. On the one hand, the police officer insists on the presence of gun that was the major driver that urged him to shoot the suspect, while the girlfriend of the driver insists there were no gun in the car at all and the suspect was reaching for his wallet only. However, the problem is not even the presence or absence of the gun in the car, but the problem is the availability of the gun to civilians and the high risk of the presence of guns in civilian hands that makes police officers extremely suspicious to any actions that may involve the use of gun. In this regard, the ban of fire arms sales to civilians and the ban of the right to bear arms would make Philando Castile shooting impossible because there would be the reason for shooting at all.

Furthermore, the police violence is one more important issue that triggered directly or indirectly the shooting. Police officers have been repeatedly accused of misusing their power and authority, especially in relation to African Americans that increased the tension between the police and African American community. Violent methods used by police officers often become subjects to severe criticism. In case of Philando Castile shooting, the use of force by the police officer was obvious but the question that begs is whether the use of force was essential in that case. In this regard, police officers need to consider techniques and strategies to minimize the use of force while conducting their regular activities, including traffic stops.

Therefore, the case of Philando Castile shooting is another case of the shooting of the African American by the police officer which reveals deep-rooted problems of the US society and police, including the ineffective profiling strategy, the presence of fire arms, and the police violence. At the same time, this is also the case which proves the necessity to limit the lethal force of the police and not only rights but also possibilities for police officers to use the lethal force.

Obviously, the use of the lethal force is a highly controversial but essential method. On the one hand, the use of the lethal force is often the only way to stop dangerous criminals, when all other methods failed or cannot be used. On the other hand, the use of the lethal force method increases the risk of the police violence and murders committed by police officers by mistake or whatever other reason. As they have the right to use the lethal force police officers can and do use that right which may lead to cases similar to the case of Philando Castile shooting and similar cases. Therefore, the use of the lethal force imposes serious liabilities on the department and each police officer working at the department and having the right to use the lethal force, when necessary.

The use of the lethal force involves the liability which the department and police officers have to comply with to the full extent. Otherwise, the lethal force use will lead to disastrous effects. The use of the lethal force is not just the method of the last resort but also the method which does not admit the possibility of error, because the error once made will never be corrected. The liability of the department involves specific legal liabilities for the misuse of the lethal force use. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the use of the lethal force puts liability on police officers in the first turn because it is police officers, who use the lethal force. Therefore, in case of using the lethal force, it is the police officer, who uses the force, is fully liable for consequences of the use of the lethal force. This is why police officers have to be very careful about the use of the lethal force because, if they admit an error, they will lose their position in the police and undergo the legal trial and may go to jail, if they turn out to be guilty in the crime and the court takes the decision to send them to prison. However, it is not only the police officer that is liable for the use of the lethal force, but also it is supervisors of the police officer up to the head of the police department that are also liable for the lethal force use. Supervisors and the head of the department have to conduct training and prepare police officers to the use of the lethal force. Hence, they are also responsible for the use of the police officers of the lethal force.


Thus, the use of the lethal force is a highly challenging but essential method of the last resort for police officers to use in exceptional cases, when no other method is applicable to stop criminals from dangerous crimes. The lethal force has both strengths and weaknesses, but police officers have to be very careful while using the lethal force because they are liable for consequences of the use of this last resort method.


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  2. Fayetteville Police Department. (2016, November 15). Policies, Procedures, and Rules. Fayetteville, Arkansas. Retrieved from View/10196/134-Less-Lethal-Weapons-and-Defensive-Tactics
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  6. The Use-of-Force Continuum. (2009, August 4). Retrieved from enforcement/officer-safety/use-of-force/Pages/continuum.aspx

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The Use of the Lethal Force. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from

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