When can police shoot?

“Laws for Law Enforcement” 


When can Police Shoot Someone? The Legal Standard for Deadly Force has been in place since the 1980’s, when the US Supreme Court in two cases, the Tennessee vs Garner and the other Graham vs Connors, explain when police can use Deadly Force.

Video Here: Sunny Hostin Explains

In the Edward Garner case, police shot 15-year-old Edward Garner when he was trying to climb a fence after escaping from a home burglary. He was unarmed. All he had was $10.00 dollars and a purse he had taken from the house. In finding that it was wrong to kill the teen, the supreme court said, “where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him, does not justify the use of deadly force to so!

Tennessee v. Garner Case

In Tennessee v. Garner (471 U.S. 1), the United States Supreme Court held that a police officer may utilize deadly force if he/she has probable cause to believe that a suspect posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. In other words, an officer has the discretion to escalate or de-escalate the amount of force that he/she utilizes in a situation. Until Congress passes a law that contains a succinct definition and requires training for escalation and elevation of force, we will continue to see police officers murder African Americans and the “law” deem it “justifiable” or “self-defense.”

Graham v. Connor Case

In 1989 the supreme court further clarified the law in Graham vs Connor, in that case, the torn Graham, a diabetic, went into a convenience store to get orange juice because he felted the onset of an insulin attack. When he got into that convenience store, he saw the long lines, he then quickly existed. A police officer saw him though that his exit from that convenience store was suspicious and preceded to follow him and stop him. Other backup officers arrive and slam Graham head onto the police car hood. Graham received severe injuries and sued. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. There the supreme court found the officers’ actions were justified. Why, because the officers reasonably believed that the force they used was necessary to prevent or detect a crime in progress. The law entrusted the decision as to when to use deadly force on the officers, and then the courts determine whether the officer’s action was reasonable, right then and there at the scene, not in hindsight.



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