Revoke the License to Kill


image: nytimes.com

image: nytimes.com

I take it back; this isn’t a series about police training alone, but about all of it, since it’s all so interconnected.

The first thing that should change in American police policy, in my opinion, is allowing officers to use lethal force any time they feel threatened.

Considering how much firearm use is emphasized in the training, why can’t the policy be that they can aim for the shoulder or the legs if they feel that shooting is the only way to prevent further danger? The notion that any time someone reaches in their pocket, officers can empty their clips into the person is just ridiculous.

I would suggest that an officer can use lethal force only if a person is actually aiming a gun straight at them, or at least in the process of aiming it at them. Otherwise it should be possible to stop someone by shooting their arm or leg, at least long enough to then overpower them by other means and put them in handcuffs.

Whenever a police officer uses his gun, there should be an investigation later to see if that was his only option in the situation. The notion that we shouldn’t question an officer afterward because it will make them think twice before shooting next time is absurd. We should do exactly that.

Racism within the police is hard to combat, as is their general attitude of being in attack mode in any and all interactions with the public instead of treating people with common decency, but if the police don’t have this rather open license to kill, at least it would save some lives. That would be a beginning.

5 responses to “Revoke the License to Kill

  1. I would hazard that this, too, is a training issue. It takes a much higher level of expertise to use a firearm as nonlethal force.

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  2. I actually think we should look to countries where not all police officers are armed as a matter of course. My grandfather was a homicide detective in Russia from the late 1940’s through the 1960’s — the time and place where you’d expect the police to be armed to the teeth. In fact, he almost never carried a gun. Even during planned arrests of murderers, typically only one or two out of a group of police officers would be armed — if anyone. He did have a weapon assigned to him, but it was kept in a safe at the station. To sign it out, he had to articulate a reason why he needed it that particular time.

    I think it’s basically like Chekhov’s Gun. The more you arm the police, the greater the chances that innocent people will be killed, and the higher the casualties. Cops are civilians. Increasingly, people in this country seem not to realize that.

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