Police using fatal force in escalated incidents

Image via Wikimedia
Image via Wikimedia

When is it ok to kill?

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

To be a cop is a challenging job in both duties and ethics. In many cases, you are making decisions that are life-or-death. Police are equipped with Tasers and guns to use in defence of themselves or others, weapons capable of subduing or killing a perpetrator.

There are definitely cases in which police have no choice but to kill. If a suspect is putting someone else in serious danger or fatal risk, the unfortunate reality is that you must kill to save someone else’s life.

Nevertheless, I believe fatal force is an issue not discussed or challenged enough in police circles. In many cases where someone was killed by police, it could have been prevented, and that killing someone is almost never the best solution. Lives are very important, and one’s right to life is not forfeited just because they got into a confrontation with police.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement seeks to stop members of the Black community from being killed while in confrontation with police. In many of the specific cases cited, these people were deliberately murdered by police in a confrontation while unarmed and not resisting arrest. In some of the cases where the victim did have a weapon, they were not forcefully using it or attempting to hurt others around them. There is a huge element of racism in these cases, and people of colour are constantly mistreated and dealt with by police in ways that a white person in the same situation would likely not be. The race argument is often glazed over for the argument that police were “just doing their jobs.”

A police officer’s job is not to kill people. Ideally, they would never have to kill anyone, and should only do so as a last resort. Many are killed by police for simple reasons such as reaching inside their pockets, not completely cooperating with an officer’s orders, or charging at them with a knife or other weapon that isn’t a gun.

There are many ways to subdue people that do not involve using fatal force. Even if a gun is necessary (as opposed to pepper spray, batons, or Tasers), gunshots can be fired in a way that does not immediately kill. There are also many guns tested and used by police that shoot bullets designed to injure but not to kill, such as those made of rubber. A shoot-to-kill mentality is not a healthy one, particularly if it is used at the start of a confrontation instead of after escalation.

There is a growing trend and support in society that police are entitled to kill whoever they want, as long as that person is automatically judged to be a danger. All deaths caused by police are a tragedy, and every single one should be investigated. Many of them are justified, maybe even the majority, but I still feel there are many cases in which the death was unnecessary.