The use of force has for a long time impaired the credibility of the police agency in the process of law enforcement. The police department as an agency who enforce the law, have worked tirelessly to create their image as perfect law enforcers and to encourage that, everybody gives the law the respect it deserves. When a single officer applies deadly force in the process of enforcing the law, this undermines all the effort and reduces the confidence that the community have put in the police agency.
This paper is will discuss how the landmark case of Tennessee v Garner influenced the use of deadly force. The case, saw the Supreme court set standards that must be observed by a police officer before he can argue that it was necessary and reasonable to use deadly force while apprehending a suspect. The paper will also discuss the role of the executive law enforcement leaders, in controlling the use of deadly force as well as the duty of the executive leaders in controlling the controversial issues which arise once a deadly force incidence has been reported.
During the period of 1970’s and 1960’s, the department of law enforcement was subject to much discussion and scrutiny. The way in which the police responded to the social problems, was the major factor which caused the criticism of the police agency. According to Currie (2003), the United States was the most affected, it experienced numerous urban rioting, marches of civil rights, big movements of people who were advocating for societal change and antiwar demonstration. The last two decades in the United States had heated debates and criticism on the use of force by the police while apprehending the suspects.
The 21st century has also been a big challenge to the police agency, there has been a great unanticipated proliferation of increased social evils such as adult and juvenile crimes, alcohol and drug addiction. Cases of violence have also been on the increase. The police agency has had to put a lot of effort in ensuring that a solution is offered to all the above mentioned problems and that, the society has trust in the way the police conduct themselves while on duty.
Moore (2002) observed the fact that, the executive police officers in the urban areas are the most affected. He recognized and acknowledged the impact that has resulted due to the social evils, he stated that, it is the individual police officer who is specifically impacted. According to Farrell (2006), struggling to offer a solution to the social problems facing the society has exerted enough pressure to the police agency and any officers responsible. The structure of the society is formed in a way that, it is sometimes necessary to apply force if the police are to realize their mission of controlling the social problems.
The United States has a number of 16,000 agencies of police that are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law. All the agencies have at some point or another been faced with a situation where they have had to deal with the problem of deadly force. The King Rodney incidence in Los Angeles, changed how police brutality charges were reviewed, rather very harsh by the general community. The result of the Los Angeles incidence lead to a supervision of law enforcement officers in the carrying out of their duties. The executive law officers in all of the 16,000 law agencies are still searching for a solution to this problem but have not yet found the answer (Goldstein, 2004).
There is need for the police officers to put much more effort to address the issue of use of deadly force, not just because of the increased liability concerns, media scrutiny, external sources that are putting pressure on the police agency, but mainly because there is need to attain the goal of the required standards of professionalism in the police department. For the attainment of police integrity, the use of deadly force must be brought to the end.
The Florida statute has enunciated the rule which is basically a statement that has been adopted from the English common law. The statute of Florida however has not authorized that the police while arresting suspects to use deadly force. Rather, the practice of use of deadly force has been supplied from the use of case law, and most of this case laws are very old, they even date back to the turn of the previous century (Swan, 2004).
Section 775.6 of the Florida statute talks about officers enforcing the law; the Florida statute provides that, an officer enforcing the law or anyone else who he has given the authority or direction to act in his capacity, need not desist or resist from making efforts to attain a successful and lawful arrest, because of threat or resistance from the person who is being arrested. The statute authorizes the officer in such circumstances to use force (Lewis,2005).
The statute further provides that, in the use of deadly force, the officer should consider the following factors; that the force applied is necessary for the protection of the officer himself or any other person from any bodily harm during the making of the arrest. Secondly, force can be used in retaking felons who have escaped, with the intension to evade justice by fleeing and hiding from the arm of the law. Lastly, force may be applied when it is necessary in the arrest of felons who may be making attempts to flee from justice.
The above provisions are used as a defense where police officers are accused for use of deadly force while apprehending suspects. This defenses cannot however be used in a civil action, for any damage which an officer may have caused as a result of applying deadly force unless it can clearly be shown that, the use of deadly force in the situation was vital to avoid defeat of an arrest by a person fleeing. It should also be shown that, warning had been issued and that, the police officer reasonably believed that the fleeing felon was involved in a crime which involved the infliction of serious physical harm, or that there was threat of the occurrence of physical body harm to someone else or to the officer himself. Secondly, the officer should be in a reasonable belief that, the fleeing felon has made threats of causing serious physical injuries, either to another person or to the officer.
Section 776.51 of the Florida statute addresses the issue of use of force where a felon is resisting the efforts of the police to make the arrest. The Florida statute puts restrictions which state that, a person should not apply any force in resisting an arrest by any police officer, especially when there is reasonable proof that the person making the arrest in question is a law enforcement police. The act also prohibits the officer or anyone who may be acting under them and through their instructions, from applying force during arrests which are not lawful.
Charles (2005) expressed that, there is the concern as to when to decide that it is necessary to use deadly force, and what measure is used to decide that the necessity was apparent so as to justify the deadly force used in a certain situation. Researchers have stated that, during the making of an arrest, the police officer has the right to use that necessary degree of force, and may even go ahead and kill the culprit who is being sought where it is shown that, a felony offense was involved and that it was necessary to apply deadly force.
Despite the fact that common law gives the police the authority to use deadly force where it is the last option in dealing with the arrest of a felon who is fleeing, some courts have objected to the rule through the use of statutes. Boeder (2000) observed that, States such as Illinois have classified felonies in their statutes and restricted the use of deadly force in the enumerated offenses. A decision was made by the supreme court in 1985, in the case of Tennessee v Garner. The facts of this case were that, a police officer shot a person by the name Garner. Garner was a nighttime prowler. The police officer in the effort to arrest the suspect fired the gun without a good reason to believe that Garner, who was a youth had any weapons. When the suspects body was inspected, the police discovered a purse and ten U.S dollars which were alleged to have been taken from another woman’s home.
The Supreme Court in making a ruling in the Garner case held that, an officer should use deadly force only in a situation where he has reasonable ground to believe that, the suspect is in possession of serious weapons that could cause threat to physical harm either to someone else or to the police officer himself. If an officer does not observe the standards set by the Garner’s case, then their action would amount to an unreasonable seizure. This rule is found in the fourth amendment. Any shooting conducted by a police officer in violation of the standards that were set by the supreme court in Garner’s case would lead to a civil suit, under the county or municipality civil rights. This is as a result of the adoption of policies in the county and municipal courts, that have set the standards established by the Supreme court in the Garner’s case (Schofield, 2000).
Various mechanisms have since been put in place including the application of the ruling in Garner’s case to deal with the issue of deadly force. Researchers have also done studies looking for the major factors contributing to use of deadly force and how these can be controlled.
Stress as a Major Factor Contributing to Use of Deadly Force
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (1985) observed that, as time goes by, the responsibility issued to the police is increasing with more demands that the police involve themselves in solving most of the social problems in the community. The society demands that the police should respond to neighborhood or domestic disturbances, personal accidents, medical emergencies, and any other incident that may jeopardize the safety of any citizen. These demands have in turn exposed the police to a lot of pressure and stressful situations. The life of the police is often exposed to risks, as they are the ones expected to get into contacts with the dangerous and evil doers in the community, to apprehend and hand them over to the next step in the legal machinery.
According to Moore (2005), the program of work for the police officers is unfavorable as they are expected to deal with a hard situation and then go to the next. They are not allowed at any time to share their experience with others, to process the information or even to recoil. The police community policing has failed in considering the importance of giving the officers time to express stress openly, and share their experiences with the fellow officers. The policing community has also failed in doing a proper research to find out why the officers sometimes use unnecessary force, and even deadly force.
Preimsberger (2005) stated that, various factors contribute to unnecessary use of force and include; the threat the officers encounter from the community mannerism, the officers lack good exposure to the culture of the community, a resentful and snobbish perception towards the society due to the way in which people in the society try to distance themselves from the police, there is in fact no good relationship between the police and the society.
The manner in which crimes keep recurring makes the officer tend to use deadly force with the belief that, this will instill fear in the community and discourage more people from getting involved in felonies. The society life is very different to the way of life in which the police officers are accustomed to, this poses a problem because the differences lead to misunderstandings, where the police lack knowledge on how to handle criminals and instead end up applying more than the effort required during arrest. Discipline and the supervision of police officers has been poor, the personal life of an officer may contribute the use of deadly force in a certain situation.
Helping Officers Manage Stress
The policing community should not assume the factors which contribute to stress on the part of the police officers. The executives in the law enforcement department should work hard to form management trainings for stress reduction and support programs. According to John (2006), these mechanisms will help to eradicate the adverse effects that occur as a result of stress. Leaders in the police agency are supposed to work with a lot of commitment in ensuring that, their personnel are able to overcome the critical stressing situations they often go through. The type of commitment required would need the executive police agencies to ensure that, proper employment terms and conditions are put in place. There is also need to write down effective policies that would address various issues, to avoid factors that contribute to stress and eventually the use if deadly force. Confidentiality should also be involved in such a commitment.
Syndrome For Sudden Death
According to the Commission on Accreditation Report (2000), the issue of sudden death has been related to events which take place in the police custody. Every now and then, there has been reports of confrontation between the police and criminals while in custody. 30 minutes after such an incidence, there is a report of one or two deaths which are justified as a mechanism used to subdue the criminals while in police custody. The policing department has failed to tackle this issue from the other point of view, by looking into the individual character of the criminal. Unless the executive leaders in the police department consider the character of individuals, the specific reason of such deaths cannot be clearly explained.
A person who is a cocaine addict for instance has behaviors which may be very wired and highly combative, such a person may need extra number of forces to restrain them otherwise, they may cause physical harm to anyone in jail including the police officers themselves. In such a situation, more officers may be required to control the subject who is violent, but should at the same time limit the weight of measures they put in place, in order to avoid hurting the subject.
Maher (2007) expressed that, death is bound to occur while in the police custody any time. Where the cause of death cannot be determined, for instance a crushed neck, or a broken spinal code, the autopsy department will be called upon to make a list of the probable causes of the sudden death. Such listing of probable causes may include, exhaustive mania which may be acute due to the police holding the criminals neck for a long time, or any other descriptive act which may try to explain the manner in which a police may have handled the culprit. According to Stephen (2002) the cause of death may be stated and thereafter the reason given, for instance, it may be stated that the accused died due to exhaustive mania and that this occurred as a result of an overdose of self induced cocaine, or due to the criminals violent and illegal resistance to abide by the rules in custody or resistance to a lawful arrest.
The fact is that, the neck carotid, or sleeper, or restraint presents the only method which can be applied to restrain and control a subject who is not corporative and is violent, as this is one of the safest methods which most of the time does not cause any bodily injury on the culprit. Though there are rare cases where trachea damage has been reported, the method of neck restraint has been reported to be humane and safe enough in handling of criminals.
The policing community has applied the use of neck restraining technique to control thousands of combative and violent subjects over a long period of time, and this measure has been reported as successful and efficient. Meadows (2003) expressed that, in a number of thousands of subjects who have been controlled by use of neck restraining method, only a very small percentage have suffered trachea damage which has resulted to death. Compared to other techniques that have been applied to control violent subjects such as firearm, teaser, tear gas and baton among other methods of restraint, the use of neck restraining can be said to be the best and safest method of controlling violent subjects.
Where death suddenly occurs in the use of neck restraining method, the most appropriate cause is loss of the respiratory function or cardiac function. There are also deaths which when they occur while a subject is in custody may be associated to trauma, such deaths are categorized in three classes as; where death is caused by a heart disease, physical exertion or emotional stress. Insufficiency of coronary functioning occurs in such a situation of trauma and where a subject experiences excessive stressful situations, precipitates death. It is easy to determine where a blow caused death, or where vagal inhibition was induced (McCarthy, 2004).
The second category of traumatic deaths include situations where solar plexus may be the resulting cause of death, researchers have however stated that, there has not been a proper demonstration of a situation where solar plexus has caused any death. The third category is where death occurs and insignificant abrasions and bruises are detected in the body as a suggestion that external force had been used on the subject while in custody.
The autopsy will then be guided by the appearance of the external injuries to go ahead and find the internal injuries which may be detected in the body of the subject. This investigation will assist the autopsy to access causation between the sudden death which may have occurred and trauma that the subject may have gone through while in the police custody. It should be noted that, despite the efforts put in the three death categories to determine the cause of death, it may still be hard to determine the exact cause of death in every situation.
The cause of death may have been attributed to emotional stress to some degree, this may have been slowly built up in the heart of the subject, leading to death. The heart problem may be caused by some unpredictable chemicals in the body, probably a neuropeptide or an enzyme. When this chemicals are present in the heart, they destruct the brain power to determine whether a flight response should be applied in the appropriate situation. When a person is exposed to extreme stress, the sympathetic nervous form of system and the adrenal glads produce chemicals which are known as catechloamines. These chemicals are very harmful as most of the time they end up bursting the the fibers in the cardiac muscle and the coronary vessels. Where a person is exposed to a long period of traumatic emotional experiences, the heart becomes weak as time goes by.
Some people may have characteristics that are weak and this makes them susceptible to syndromes that may cause sudden deaths. Other people are easily affected by emotional stress and this may create a predisposition in them. Psychological researchers have stated that, hopelessness, stress and life changes are very critical factors which may lead to sudden deaths as a result of emotional trauma. Psychological theories which have tackled this area have cited that, such factors as helplessness may affect the myocardial neurosis, cause hypertension, arteriosclerosis plus many other problems.
Studies have shown that, these characteristics have been proven after a long period of study, but the loophole still remains due to the fact that, the syndrome of sudden death has not yet been known well. People know that sudden death takes place, but there is no perfect explanation for the syndrome, at times the police may end up being accused for use of deadly force while they may have done nothing wrong.
Investigating Deadly Force Incidents
According to Burnham (2002), the act of shooting by a police officer is not looked at as a normal homicide case, it would not be fair if such acts by the officers were to be handled as homicide cases. When an officer shoots, a controversial debate arises with one side supporting the act and the other side in disapproval. This may lead to a crisis with end results which may be significantly different for the worse or for the better.
The controversial issue can be dealt with, by the executive policing leaders by putting in place a process which may be appropriate enough to explain the action of the officer. The structure of administrative investigation should be tested, developed, and staffed to ensure efficiency in the investigation operations.
The next important step would involve collection of all facts that would explain the action in question, the facts should be properly analyzed, so as to develop a good picture that can explain what actually happened. The incidents which involve a police shooting mostly end up in a civil suit been taken to court, it is therefore important to address all possible questions which may occur during trial and to ensure that, the testimony given by the police officer is not different from the testimony of the witness.
Thibault (2005) observed that, the controversy which is often raised as a result use of deadly force by the police officer, does not have to be necessarily based upon truth or fact. Even a small clue of information that may look like it is not very significant may lead to a big controversy. In any case where the issue of innocent killing is mentioned, this is looked at as serious case and in need of much attention. Where a statement is wrongly given, a phrase poorly written, or a quote made that is out of context, two differing versions explaining the incident, or misunderstandings, all these simple mistakes can lead to a very serious controversy.
There have been situations where several witnesses have appeared in court and testify that a police officer shot a person without any reasonable cause. Mahoney (1985 ) stated that, when the fact of the case is adduced, the opposite of what the witnesses testified is found to be the true position. Most people in the society have a poor perception towards the police and will see a wrong done by the police even where the police are not wrong. professionals who are specialized in the area of conducting investigation have stated that, it is indeed a true phenomenon that the society perspective is biased against any use of deadly force applied by an officer even where the act was necessitated by factors that are stated in the Florida statute.
It is appropriate and proper that a professional investigator should be called upon to carry out the investigation on deadly use of force. It has been proved that, where three or four people describe an act of shooting by an officer without any presence of physical proof, an innocent police officer may end up being convicted. It is of utmost importance that physical evidence be adduced due to the fact that, most of the time it is the most reliable form of evidence that is available compared to the other witnesses who may be biased.
Everyone can make a wrong description of a deadly force incidence including the police officers themselves. Officers are human and also get nervous during the happening of the incident, in some situations, an officer may not recall the shorts they fired in total, the difference of distance between them and the subject who they short, or the lighting that was there to help them view the person. Scientists have given an explanation to the effect that, in situations where a person is critically stressed, such misappropriation of the incident is common. It is therefore not logical for a person to rush into conclusions that the officer who is being investigated is lying, unless clear evidence is produced to prove that an officer is evading the truth.
When all the facts are collected which include the place, the time, and the representative who presents the official position that may have been decided by the agency, these factors may help in coming up with a conclusion. The report presented by the police agency should have been arrived at after all the parties who have authority to make such a decision sit down, discuss and arrive at a conclusion. Differences in arriving at a report showing the official position of the the agency may occur depending on the surrounding factors, or on the perception of the agency.
Studies have made a suggested group of people whose views and suggestions may matter, facts which are found at after an investigation is carried out properly should also be analyzed. The groupings may include the officer, the investigator at the primary level, the chief head police, the person in charge of the department, and a group of people who may be involved in the community. Where there is an allegation of misconduct by the officer however, he is exempted from contributing his views and opinions.
The involvement of a police officer in the process of investigation should be handled with a lot of care as it should be noted that, he is the cause of the controversy at hand and may end up getting biased, due to the fact that he may be having a conflict of interest in the matter. The corporation and assistance of the officer while collecting facts which will be used to make an investigation on the use of deadly force in a certain incident is very important and should not therefore be underrated. There is need for the police agency in which the police officer serves, to corporate very well with the officer, so as to determine the correct facts and confidently inform the community about the findings of the deadly force which had taken place.
According to Leonard (2006), an agency is said to be acting in its best interested when it decides to keep quiet and refuse to comment about a certain incident. The reason being that, most incidents of use of deadly force end up in a civil litigation, with a county or city attorney being given the responsibility to handle the case. Where the agency had been careless in commenting about the issue, this may create further controversy when it gets to the process of finding the actual facts of the case. Where the attorney who is representing the agency demand that the agency issue him with their views, the agency should make a written statement about issues of facts but should not make any more suggestions.
The act of keeping quiet by the police agency is conceived by many people as a sign of guilt and the agency is alleged to be covering up some important information so as to protect the officer. However, it is appropriate and important that the officers keep quiet so that they can leave the society with no room to to get an explanation which they can criticize, but rather enables the attorney to support the act as a lawful use of deadly force. It is however important that a proper statement is made to the public explaining why the police shot people in a deadly incident, because the police officers and agencies are supposed to work in the best interest of the public, and should be answerable to the community for any action they take.
Critiques have argued that, the police should create good confidence in the community, this trust can only be attained by the community having clear knowledge that the acts being carried out by the agency are within the limits of the law, and that they are done in the best interest of the community. When the police agency refuses to talk where an incident of deadly force has occurred, the community looks at this as refusing to act in good faith and looses trust in the agency.
The agency will not be regarded to be working in good faith where they delay or conceal facts of a deadly force incident. The community perceives information that is delayed as being incorrect because a long period rapture may have had interferences and distortion of the information before it finally reaches to the people.
People should be informed in advance that, in the exercise of the deadly force in question, the police did not perform in a misconduct manner, this may ease tension in the community and cause less controversial problems than when the police agency decides to keep quiet. Reporting an incidence of deadly force first and with confidence to the community make things easy and avoid the many controversial issues which may have occurred, people will no longer look at the incident as news anymore, the story which may have in the first instance appeared on the front page of the newspaper, start appearing on other pages behind or is even not published any more. This also avoids a chance for critiques who may want to bring in controversies.
The service of community relations emphasized that, the police departments should work tirelessly, to offer the best services to the society so as to create the trust needed. The police officers are also required to create a good relationship with people at the community level as this may help to create a proper understanding between the two parties and ensure that, controversial issues are minimized. Where a proper understanding is created between the officers and the police, it is easy to avoid many incidents of use of deadly force.
Role of the Society in Controlling use of deadly Force
The community is the center target in solving the problem of use of deadly force. Where the community has retained a good relationship with the police and trusts the police well enough, it is then easy for people to view actions done by the police agency and the officers as right. Where there is a poor relationship between the two parties, the community will always have a negative attitude towards the police officers. This explains why we have had many incidences of people in the society acting as witnesses in civil suits, where they describe the action of the police officer and demand that the use of deadly force by the officer was unnecessary. The truth is that, people interpret actions according to the belief which they possess. Most of the time, the testimony of the society witnesses has been proved to be biased by the investigation conducted by the professional investigators.
Politicians and personalities in the society influences the media to attack the action of the police, the major area which is the target of the attack is the use of deadly force by the officers. With the highly visible position of the chief police officer, they are often called upon by the media to come out and comment about the occurrence of an incident, where an officer may have used deadly force in arresting a suspect.
According to the Community Relations Service (2004), politicians in the community may frame a bad picture of a police officer and insist that, the chief police is to be blamed for poor leadership that may have lead to the practice of use of deadly force, which has been recurring within the police agencies. Politicians may be influenced by various groups which may be having a conflict of interest or trying to look for votes from among the citizens by showing them that, they are in a position to protect the community from the police who are viewed as ruthless. Politicians have in the past tried to criticize and repeatedly take advantage of a deadly force incidence in order to satisfy the needs of specific interests groups or some irresponsible persons.
The police must work hard to ensure that, the numerous myths of deadly force are done away with. The police agency can be an enemy of its own where they refuse to corporate and make the public trust that they discharge their duties according to the law. When a case is printed on the newspaper alleging a misconduct about an officer in the use of deadly force, the agency should move in to protect the officer, otherwise where the agency keeps quite and the allegation is put on the papers several times, the community will tend to believe the story. This is the point that leads to many controversial issues and lack of trust between the police agency and the community. A police agency should therefore be careful to ensure that there is good corporation between them and the police officers, so as to avoid a weakness which may be capitalized by the society, politicians and any other irresponsible persons.
Role of Researchers in Investigating Deadly Force
Klotter (2000) expressed that, one of the efforts applied by the police agency to ensure effective investigation in the use of deadly force, is the employment of personnel experts who are well informed about the area of research. However, the fact that there are many people who involve themselves in the investigation has brought about a problem that leads to most controversial issues. Some personnels employed to do the investigation have failed to come up with proper documentation and a sufficient explanation about the facts which they have discovered.
In effect, there arises a situation where we have misuse, misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Many of the employed researchers are not well prepared, they lack proper training and experience to deal with the complex issues before them. Most participate in the research with the aim of getting a public recognition when they appear in the media giving information, but in real sense they may not have provided any correct data to assist in arriving at the true facts of the case. For instance, we may have a Researcher who provides data statics that may have the implication that most of the suspects shot by the police officers are the blacks. While the statistics may be correct, if there is no other information to be relied on, the correct statistics may be misinterpreted. This may lead to people believing that, most blacks are killed compared to the whites and Hispanics.
The community may believe that the police officers discharge their duties with a biased mentality against the blacks. Where we have respected researchers, they look for additional information and more data and explain clearly that the whites, Hispanics and the blacks are short in differing numbers according to the rate on involvement in incidences of crime.
It is appropriate and proper to have effective investigations conducted in the use of deadly force. Controversial questions which may arise need to be addressed and answers should be given addressing the questions. The leaders in the police agency must work extra hard to discourage the use of deadly force and it does not matter how costly or frustrating the effort may be.
The Garner’s case has helped resolve incidences where we have had controversies as to whether a police officer was right or wrong in the use of deadly force in a certain incidence. The reasonable standards established in the case have really assisted courts in making decisions. Other measures however need to be put in place to solve the problem of use of deadly force by the police officers. As stated by David (2007), the law enforcers should not try to avoid the problem or develop a negative attitude towards those who try to attack the issue of deadly force. They should in fact look at the issue as an expected challenge, one that is natural and that needs the guidance of the administrative ability to be solved. The best thing to do is to explore the issue of deadly force carefully, both as a team and independently.
The police agency need to be structured in a way that, discussions and views can be aired out openly, ideas can be shared and those with experience can advise the less experienced. The executives in the area of law enforcement must negotiate and resolve the conflicting signals between the officers, politicians, community, officers, outside organizations and the media (Preimsberger, 2005). There is need to apply the best diplomacy and experienced persons to help tackle the area. In fighting to resolve the issue of deadly force, there is need to change the perspective and position of people both in the society and police community on order to easily control cultural values and stop, or minimize any sue of force by the officers while conducting their duties.
The society is however structured in a way that, police are sometimes forced to apply force in accomplishing their mission. In such a situation, highly skilled executives should apply reliable experience to solve the problem. By and large, whether an executive law enforcement officer has any responsibility in the use of deadly force or not, they are always liable, it is therefore important to work hard in controlling the use of deadly force due to the high responsibility they are charged with.
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