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The use of force should not be abused by the police

Two grand juries in two very different cases have refused to indict white police officers for the deaths of two black men. As a result, many people are wondering if it's possible to hold police officers accountable for use of deadly force.

State and federal laws could be reformed to make it easier to punish police officers who misuse deadly force, but legal experts say those changes would face political hurdles and an unfriendly U. The grand jury decisions not to indict police involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York sparked nights of protests.

Here, protesters gathered on the steps of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Credit Camille Phillips St. Louis Public Radio More effective, many legal and policing experts say, would be better police training, more attention to police-community relations and federal pressure on local departments to reform their practices.

Critics of the current system say the two recent cases demonstrate the inadequacy of the law to address what they consider to be unjust police actions. But even if the laws were changed, the officers involved would have a good chance of avoiding prosecution, legal experts say.

That's because laws permit the use of deadly force if an officer feels threatened, as Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson said he did, or when a suspect is resisting arrest, as New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo claimed in the Garner case.

He should have called for backup and then confronted Brown when the backup arrived, said Klinger. The same advice applies to the recent Cleveland police shooting death of a 12 year old with a replica gun, he said. At that point, if the kid shows the gun, the officers have no choice but to shoot. Limits to legal reform Legal experts point out that there are constitutional, political and common sense limits to legal reform of police violence.

Not every questionable police act is a crime or can be made into one. Training and professional standards can impose a much higher bar for police conduct than can the criminal code.

The benefit of doubt goes to the police in a close situation. Supreme Court has emphasized that it does not want to second-guess difficult, split-second decisions by officers. Nor are prosecutors, judges, juries or grand juries likely to second-guess in close cases.

  • Instead, the prosecutors said the grand jurors should follow the Tennessee v;
  • An empirical analysis of time-space dynamics, 40 British Journal of Criminology 480, 496 2000;
  • Organizational factors include institutional control mechanisms such as training programs and accountability structures, as well as a subculture that legitimizes the use of excessive force in carrying out day-to-day police work.

A police officer must be on notice as to what actions are criminal. Constitutional limits restrict the reach of some laws on police misconduct.

The court has imposed a high burden of proof on the federal criminal civil rights law used to prosecute police. The court also protects municipal police departments from lawsuits where renegade officers violate department policy.

  • William Terrill et al;
  • Classification of these complaints is therefore not intended to calculate exact percentages for each type of abuse, but rather to shed light on the varied motivations for police abuse, including the pursuit of monetary gains;
  • When Investigative Agents were involved, the percentage was 43.

Police, unlike civilians, are authorized to use force — sometimes deadly force — to make arrests, and they have no obligation to retreat.

Because of the special role that police officers perform on behalf of society, they are given extra authority to use force. Should police have greater power than civilians? A common refrain from Ferguson protesters has been that police should not have any greater power to use deadly force in self-defense than civilians have. Marcia McCormick, a criminal law professor at Saint Louis University, is sympathetic to the argument.

She wrote in an email: The criminal law is an expression of what conduct the community finds blameworthy, and so it might be appropriate to align police officers a bit more with the standard for ordinary citizens, at least when it comes to the use of deadly force.

Just because they don't have to, does not mean they shouldn't on occasion. Louis Combining that privileged position with other legal protections for officers makes it hard to hold them accountable, she said. That combination pretty thoroughly insulates them from the consequences of much of their conduct.

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Taking Officer Wilson's account as true, he had the ability to disengage rather than do battle. He could have put his truck into drive and pulled away to give him distance and an opportunity to use some of the tools he had at his disposal short of deadly force. I'm not suggesting, necessarily, that Officer Wilson should have disengaged.

I am suggesting that police training would likely have taught him that to retreat is not an option. Officers are trained to control the situation with force, if necessary, and to prevail in any violent encounter.

  • Fewer studies exist, however, that regard the excessive use of police force as "predatory," 38 in which extracting monetary benefits become one of the central aims of officers' daily tasks without necessarily neglecting their main duty to maintain order, as well as occasionally exert political control;
  • This study is based on an analysis of citizens' complaints that involve a Mexico City police officer and at least one violation of the right to physical integrity a category comprised of several types of excessive force;
  • Nevertheless, elements exist that seem to corroborate the link between corruption and the use of excessive force;
  • But he strongly believes that police should not have a legal duty to retreat;
  • These are not corrupt practices per se, as there are no overt motives for personal economic benefit.

But he strongly believes that police should not have a legal duty to retreat. We don't want the wild west. That law is inconsistent with both U.

Supreme Court precedent and Missouri jury instructions. This week, Attorney General Chris Koster added his voice to those advocating the revision.

Supreme Court decision that conflicts with the law was the 1985 Tennessee v.

The court ruled that police cannot use deadly force to capture an unarmed, non-dangerous fleeing felon. The Missouri Supreme Court did make changes.

It adopted jury instructions consistent with Garner — no shooting a fleeing, unarmed non-dangerous felon. The resulting situation is confusing. Some legal experts say the jury instruction trumps the state law; other experts say the law trumps the jury instruction. When the status of the law came to the attention of the prosecutors running the Wilson grand jury, they told the grand jury to disregard the Missouri law, which the prosecutors had given the grand jurors earlier in the proceedings.

Instead, the prosecutors said the grand jurors should follow the Tennessee v. Garner standard that does not allow police to shoot an unarmed suspect to effect an arrest. The bottom line is that the grand jurors made their decision based on Tennessee v. Garner — the ruling that sets a higher bar for use of force -- and still decided that Wilson had not committed a crime. It was one of the last states to stop police from using deadly force to stop misdemeanants.

Why It's So Hard To Hold Police Accountable For Excessive Force

Nor is Missouri the only recalcitrant state. An academic study conducted a decade after Tennessee v. Garner found that nine states still had conflicting laws. That study also found that police homicides had declined by 16 percent during that decade.

Grand juries and local prosecutors The St. Louis County and Staten Island grand juries have generated a torrent of criticism for using state grand juries and local prosecutors for police investigations. Louis County grand jury was handled much differently than the typical grand jury, causing critics to maintain that the differences are a sign of unfairness. David Harris, an expert on police misconduct at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, has made this point.

Grand juries almost always indict in non-police cases. Bureau of Justice Statistics show that about 162,000 federal cases were presented to a grand jury in 2010; grand juries declined to indict in only 11.

But police cases, particularly controversial ones involving conflicting witness testimony, are much different from typical grand juries. They are longer and often receive exculpatory information. Grand juries overwhelmingly refuse to return indictments. Harcourt noted that in Houston, Tex.

Louis County, Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has taken five police shooting cases to grand juries; none has indicted. FBI statistics since 1976 show that St. Louis County Police have killed 186 civilians, reporting self-defense in about half of them and fleeing suspects in most of the others. In the past two decades, about 70 percent of those shot in St. Louis County have been black. A few legal experts, such as Mae Quinn, a law professor at Washington University Law School, advocate that the differences and conflicts inherent in the Wilson grand jury justify a new grand jury run by a special prosecutor appointed by the presiding judge of St.

Louis County Circuit Court. A second grand jury would not be double jeopardy because jeopardy does not attach at the grand jury process. Quinn cites a murder case involving Faye Copland, where a prosecutor was replaced by a judge because he had represented Copland and shown signs of leniency. Other legal experts point out, however, that there has been no evidence that McCulloch had a similarly direct conflict of interest.

More broadly, Ferguson protesters and some state legislators favor passage of a new law to provide for special prosecutors in police cases, noting that prosecutors work hand-in-glove with police and cannot be fair in handling police abuse cases. McCormick at Saint Louis University said: At the same time, there might be other reforms that would be more successful, like a citizen's review board.