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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78607 Find in a Library
Title: Observations on Police Deadly Force
Journal: Crime and Delinquency  Volume:27  Issue:3  Dated:(July 1981)  Pages:376-389
Author(s): J J Fyfe
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 14
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Empirical research into the use of deadly force by police is examined with respect to issues related to the reasonableness and effects of rules governing such use of force.
Abstract: Questions raised by the existing body of literature involve the reasonableness of the common law rule that police may shoot any fleeing felony suspect and the effects of that rule on police law enforcement operations and community relations. Other questions involve the degree to which police agencies may be guilty of covering up negligent or criminal behavior by officers involved in shootings. The historical justification for allowing police to shoot any fleeing felon no longer exists since few felonies are currently capital crimes. In addition, nothing in the research to date suggests that a high frequency of police shooting reduces crime rates. However, the findings that many urban civil disorders of the 1960's were precipitated by police shootings suggest that such shootings may have caused an increase in crime. Data also fail to suggest that the fleeing felon rule helps police apprehend perpetrators of nonviolent crimes. Whether police shootings have occurred as reported on official documents is open to question, given anecdotal evidence on specific cases and the cult of secrecy by both individual officers and police agency administrators. Agency reluctance to make public the dispositions of internal investigations on shootings also encourages the belief that the police may be hiding something. The literature contains many recommendations designed to reduce both the frequency of police shootings and the doubt that often accompanies them. Among recommendations are that police departments should institute clear guidelines to limit the use of deadly force, that all shootings should be reviewed and adjudicated by police departments, and that findings of these investigations should be made available to the public. Footnotes are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Lawful use of force; Police use of deadly force; Police weapons use; Professional misconduct
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