There have been several controversial deaths at the hands of police officers in recent years, in several states across the country. Many of them were high-profile, such as the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In all three cases, the officers ended up not being charged or being acquitted. The six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody did face charges initially, but three of them were acquitted and charges against the other three were dropped.
In the cases of Michael Brown and Alton Sterling, the officers who fatally shot them are not facing charges.
These cases bring up many questions about police brutality and use of force.
When is it justified for police officers to use lethal force when handling a suspect or responding to a dangerous situation?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to that question, as the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Connor that cases in which police officers are accused of excessive force are evaluated on an individual case-by-case basis.
The court ruled against the argument that there should be a blanket standard for excessive force cases. In the end, in each individual case, it has to be determined whether the officer’s actions were “objectively reasonable.”
There are several elements at play when investigating a case of excessive force. These include:
The extent of the crime that was taking place
- Was the suspect an immediate and real threat to the officer in question or other people?
- Was the suspect trying to flee from officers or resist arrest?
- Did the officer in question have to make a quick decision about the level of force that needed to be used?
When can police officers fire shots at suspects who are running away from them?
That’s another complicated question. The Supreme Court took up this matter in 1985 (Tennessee v. Garner) and shot down the old precedent of police using “whatever force is necessary” to apprehend a felon who is running away from officers.
There’s now a test in place thanks to the Supreme Court, which asks:
- Did the officer reasonably believe that the person running away was going to cause death or injury to police or the general public?
Again, this is determined on a case-by-case basis. But the standard applies to Oklahoma, just as it does to the 49 other states in America.
If you or someone you love is in need of a criminal defense lawyer, contact the office of Jacquelyn Ford today for help.