Artist: Damon Davis


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Today Amnesty International USA, released its “Deadly Force” report, which is a state-by-state legislative survey on police use of lethal force statues in the United States. The report highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive national review of police use of lethal force laws, policies, training and practices as well as a thorough review and reform of oversight and accountability mechanisms.

The key findings from the report sheds new light on  the clear lack of consistency regarding the use of force statues, comply with either constitutional law or international standards to protect the lives of individuals, regardless of their race, socio-economic status or other aspects of their identity As a resulted we have witnessed what happens when no law is in place, or the standards are so broad that they open the door for misinterpretation, and human rights violations to occur.

  • The United States has failed to respect and protect the right to life by failing to ensure that domestic legislation meets international human rights law and standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.
  • All 50 states and Washington, D.C. fail to comply with international law and standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.
  • Nine states and Washington, D.C. have no laws on use of lethal force by law enforcement officers: Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Ohio; South Carolina; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin, Wyoming; and the District of Columbia.
  • Thirteen states have laws that do not comply even with the lower standards set by US constitution- al law on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers : Alabama; California; Delaware; Florida; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; New Jersey; New York; Oregon; Rhode Island; South Dakota; and Vermont.
  • None of the state statutes require that the use of lethal force may only be used as a last resort with non-violent and less harmful means to be tried first.
  • No state limits the use of lethal force to only those situations where there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury to the officer or to others.
  • Nine states allow for the use of lethal force to be used to suppress a riot: Arizona; Delaware; Idaho; Mississippi; Nebraska; Pennsylvania; South Dakota; Vermont and Washington.
  • Twenty two states allow for law enforcement officers to kill someone trying to escape from a prison or jail: Alabama; Colorado; Delaware; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Indiana; Kentucky; Maine; Mississippi; Montana; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; South Dakota and Washington.
  • Only eight states require that a warning be given (where feasible) before lethal force is used, how- ever no state meets the requirement for a warning under international standards: Connecticut; Florida, Indiana; Nevada; New Mexico; Tennessee; Utah and Washington.
  • Only three states provide that officers should create no “substantial risk” to bystanders when using lethal force: Delaware; Hawaii and New Jersey.
  • Twenty states allow for private citizens (non-state actors) to use lethal force if they carry out law enforcement activities, for example assisting an officer in making an arrest: Alabama; Arizona; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Mississippi; Nebraska; New Hamp- shire; New Jersey; New York; North Dakota; Pennsylvania; South Dakota; Texas and Washington.
  • Only two states provide by statute for training on the use of lethal force: Georgia and Tennessee.
  • None of the states’ “use of lethal force” statutes include accountability mechanisms, including for example the requirement of obligatory reporting for the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officers.

To view the whole report and recommendations for every level of government:Deadly Force Report

Jamira Burley is a Philadelphia government executive , working to create platforms of enagement for policy makers and youth. In addition she consults on a number of issues including, global education, youth violence, gun violence, corporate responsibility, youth engagement and black male achievement.

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