New law enforcement standards for use of deadly force
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
In a recent move, Ohio's state law enforcement board announced standards for the use of deadly force by police. The mandate is the first of its kind in the state and a new concept for many other U.S. states as well.
Ohio has been in the news due to a series of fatal police shootings that rocked Cleveland and resulted in fatal consequences for 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November. The new standards will limit the actions of officers and their use for deadly force to defend either people from serious injury or death or themselves in an extreme situation. These standards will have to be adopted as minimum department policies by the Ohio law enforcement agencies soon.
A recent report released by Amnesty International states the number of people killed by United States police needs to be contained urgently. The use of lethal force is a nationwide problem and not related to just one state.
The report also stated certain races may be impacted more by this deadly force than others. The Rice shooting and that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, among others, has brought this issue to the forefront. These have raised serious human rights concerns and have also garnered massive media attention.
Police officers are not just responsible for upholding the law, they are also meant to protect and respect lives. The undue use of lethal force questions that duty and their regard for right to life and right to equal protection of the law. The United States has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which explicitly protects these rights.
As per the report, every U.S. state fails to comply with these global standards for use of lethal force by the police. Only eight states require a verbal warning before firing a weapon, while nine have no laws on the issue at all. Use of deadly force to "suppress a riot or mutiny" or "suppress opposition to arrest" is in fact quite common.
Another report released by the investigative news outlet Vocativ revealed that fatal police shootings in the United States are higher than criminal gun homicides in 30 other developed nations. While UN rules state that police should use deadly force only as a last resort, U.S. state laws have been left "too broad" and allow the use of this force for "a wide range of circumstances."
Few state laws have provisions to hold officers accountable or make preservation of life a top priority when it comes to use of lethal force usage by law enforcement agencies. There is now stress on the United States to comply with its international legal obligations on human rights, which will mean changing policies and aligning them with those international law and standards.
Ohio has now set the stage for the other states to follow. The set of minimum standards is going to applicable for the use of deadly force as well as for recruitment and hiring. The state agrees this is just the first step, and an important part of the whole process will be to increase the awareness within an agency itself.
Among the various standards to be set, use deadly force only for defense of officers themselves and to enable lawful arrests and stop escaping offenders are of top priority. The state officials have declared that "the preservation of human life is of the highest value in Ohio," and they will do all they can to enforce this.
In many ways, these reports make the entire police force look bad, which is harsh since they have a difficult and dangerous job. Without exact numbers, it is difficult to gauge which instances were lawful and which weren't, but the negative publicity associated with a mere handful of incidents were enough to warrant a lot of police bashing nationwide.
Now that the policy change is focusing on recruiting and training officers on these standards, there will be new and perhaps easier discipline elements for them to follow. Consistent with national and international policies on force, the rules for use of deadly force will be the right step to improve relations between police and communities.
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