Whether most police officers realize it or not, and I have serious doubts whether most police officers actually have an applied understanding of the legal standards regarding the use of deadly force...but that's another conversation, the courts have in the past and unless there is an apocalyptic reversal, will always error on the side of police officer safety. In laymen’s terms, the law vehemently protects the rights of police officers to justify the use of deadly force, even under the most morally reprehensible circumstances. The use of deadly force is a legal standard with plenty of gray area, not a moral standard that sits at the center of right or wrong. Thus, I believe the cowardly shooting and killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice, was justified under the color of the law. I know it’s difficult to accept my opinion but what I’ve done is outline the seven legal standards that I used. I hope this helps make sense of a senseless police killing:
1. The use of deadly force is primarily a seizure issue, which is covered under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
2. Fourth Amendment seizure issues with people fall into one of two categories, and each category carries with it the right of the police to use some degree of force to effect them:
- Investigative detentions (Terry Stop/Stop & Frisk)
3. Deadly force can never be justified solely for the purpose of effecting a seizure.
4. The 4th Amendment permits police officers to use deadly force (to achieve seizures) under two conditions:
- To protect themselves or others from immediate/imminent threats of serious physical injury/bodily harm; and/or
- To prevent escape of a fleeing “dangerous” person who poses an immediate/imminent threat
5. Graham v. Connor provides the most significant and comprehensive case law/legal decision to date on the manner in which the 4th Amendment is to be applied to a police officer’s decision to use any amount of force, to effect a seizure of a person. In summary, police officer actions must be objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them. That is, their actions must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable police officer, rather than with 20/20 hindsight of a non-sworn civilian.
6. Under Graham, there are several irrelevant factors when determining the “objective reasonableness“ of a police officer using deadly force:
- The police officers intention/motivation
- The suspects state of mind
- Facts determined after the event
- Police policy violations
- The police officer’s pre-seizure conduct
7. Finally, under the reasonableness standard, when using deadly force, a police officer does not have to be right, just reasonable AND a police officer is under no obligation to use less than lethal force, if deadly force is justified.
Given these legal guidelines, the morally barbaric actions of the police officers fall within the reasonableness standard, under the color of the law. These police officers are clearly going straight to hell, but most likely, not to prison.