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When is a police officer allowed to shoot?

When an officer-involved shooting results in a death, there is sometimes a public outcry and divide of support for either party. When the victim is unarmed and not exhibiting aggressive behavior, the sense of injustice felt by many is even greater. With the increase in this type of incident being reported in the news in recent years, more people are left wondering when a police officer is justified in using his or her gun and when that action is unlawful.

What the law says

According to the New York Times, The Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police declared that an officer who is fully trained and sworn in has the right to decide what level of force should be used in any situation. Each state has the ability to determine its own laws, but New York agrees with this standard and defers to the reasonable actions of the officer. While this may sound acceptable, many people believe that police officers may be making mistakes in tense situations. The panic of a potential threat may be leading some officers to make poor judgment calls that cost other people their lives.

Insufficient standards

Some argue that police officers are not held to sufficient legal standards for their actions. Part of the reasoning for this belief is that settlements are sometimes made on behalf of the officer involved. One case in 2012 brought an officer before the jury who was initially charged with manslaughter. He was found innocent after the judge dismissed the case with claims that the grand jury was improperly instructed and a new jury voted against indictment. Despite the ruling, the city paid $3.9 million to the victim's family. Some people believe that other settlements have been hastily made to appease the surviving family members before news of the case reached the media.

While the officer's perspective of danger is used to determine whether the action was reasonable, the victim in the 2012 case had no weapons and was not attacking the officer. Incidents like this, where an unarmed, complying person is killed by police, have continued to incite public outrage over the unnecessary lethal force used by officers. Many argue that this will continue to be a problem until police officers are held accountable by sufficient legal standards. If you or a family member have been subject to undue force by an officer of the law, an attorney can fight for your rights. Contact a lawyer today to ensure that appropriate action is taken and the correct consequences are delivered.

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