Should police be only allowed to shoot if they can actually see a gun?

Ok, let me be a little more clear what I meant. Currently, while it depends on jurisdiction, the police can shoot anyone they want dead and all they have to say is they thought you were reaching for a gun, or they couldn’t see your hands, or they thought you were trying to grab the cop’s gun.

The justice system is so heavily weighted in favor of the officers that they are never punished.

So I’m half tempted to say it should be a strict liability crime, and here are the standards :

Police can shoot IF :

  1. They have actual sight of a gun, and/or they are so confident the suspect is holding one that they are willing to put their own freedom on the line. If the dead suspect doesn’t have a gun, it’s an automatic mandatory minimum of about 2-4 years in jail, with an automatic conviction for “unlawful use of deadly force” or something. Planting a gun or otherwise tampering with the evidence raises the mandatory minimum to 20 years.

  2. They have actual sight of a knife or other immediately deadly weapon - baseball bats, fists, etc only count if the officer is alone and does not have a partner present - and the suspect is within twice the range of the deadly weapon. (so about 10-20 feet for a knife - none of this gunning a suspect down who has an axe from 50 yards away)

  3. The suspect is threatening the life of someone else - such as a man holding a baby who appears to be ready to snap it’s neck, etc.

  4. The suspect has actually touched the officer’s gun. None of this “he was 5 feet away, stark naked, and I thought he was going for my gun”

And that’s it. Yes, a tiny additional number of officers might be shot - but hundreds of lives would be saved. Right now, police de facto have a license to kill. This may in fact be escalating the violence - every time the police murder someone, other people may act against police. Might explain why shootings of police have risen recently. After all, every time the police murder an unarmed man, his relatives are still around.

If a suspect has his hands out of view, he might have a gun. He might have a bomb detonator. He might have his fingers around the trigger of a machine gun or the button to set off a nuke. Or, he might be scratching his nuts or getting out a cell phone. Police shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s a gun if they can’t see one.

Some of the people who are shot by police because they are reaching for something really are reaching for guns. Some of these people will manage to kill officers with the additional time they gain from this policy. Law enforcement will be seen as a much more dangerous profession, regardless of any actual change in mortality. High quality law enforcement officers leave for less dangerous professions, and are replaced by lower-quality and more violent people. Police brutality increases.

The police officer’s rules of engagement should primarily serve two purposes:

  1. Allow innocent people to avoid harm by drawing a line in the sand behind which they know they’re safe.
  2. Allow guilty people to avoid harm by surrendering.

Looking at your own list, I’d say the following…

  1. Somebody with a gun or something made or modified to look like a gun should treat it as such. “I thought he had a gun” is no excuse for shooting someone with a Wiimote or a table leg, but it is a reasonable excuse for shooting some dumbass who deliberately removed the “This is not a gun!” part of a toy gun and then did anything that would get them shot if it was a real gun.

  2. A police officer should not be permitted to shoot someone for defending their home from an unknown assailant, or for merely holding a potential weapon when they are surprised by the police. But once they’ve had time to realise that there is a police officer there, the onus is on them to not act in a manner that clearly indicates that they are going to attack the police. Demanding that you do not run at a pair of police with a baseball bat is not an onerous standard to hold people by.

  3. Okay, sure.

  4. Demanding that a police officer wait until they have lost control of their weapon before they are allowed to shoot someone trying to take their weapon is a terrible idea.

50 officers were killed in 2014, and police killed 1100 people.

My proposed policy, if it increased police deaths by 10% and reduced civilian deaths by 10% would save a net 95 lives.

Otherwise, an officer losing a fistfight can just say “he’s going for my gun” and murder someone. I said touch as in the suspect makes physical contact. If the officer has the gun now, he does not have the legal right to murder the suspect.

You can fire a gun right through a jacket pocket. The policeman would never see it.

In California, “Simulating a weapon inside your clothing” is defined as “armed” when it comes to an “armed robbery.” The robbers don’t have to show a gun to the convenience store clerk to be considered “armed.”

The police do have a lot of re-training to do…but the populace also needs to understand: reaching very suddenly for your waistband is a damned foolish thing to do when a policeman is stopping you.

(Another “false positive” is “suicide by cop,” where people do this kind of stupid thing deliberately to get shot.)

I hope you have no future dream of a career in politics.

On the other hand, if cops rush at and shout at a person suddenly, they should not then use the fact that the person they startled then panicked and moved suddenly as an excuse to fill said person full of holes.

You’re proposing that police have less protection in terms of self defense than an ordinary non police person? That makes no sense.

Ordinary people would go to prison if they shot a man without evidence of a fight and if the victim didn’t have a gun.

Personally? I’d instigate a “no shooting unless shot at first” policy. Yes, this would make police work more dangerous. I do not care.

Perhaps you should go one step further just to be on the side of caution and require that the police officer actually get penetrated by a bullet before being allowed to return fire—because the suspect may be innocently engaged in target practice with a target just to one side of the officer. Maybe even require two bullet penetrations in case the suspect is a bad shot and hit the officer with the first bullet by mistake.

I think the real flaw in the system is how some agencies handle matters after a shooting.

It doesn’t matter, if there’s no gun the cop will say he was attacked. The solution is to end the training practice that tells cops they are always about to die and anyone who doesn’t obsequiously drop to the ground is about to kill them. They are taught how to shoot based on the barest minimal justification and do so willingly from a state of fear.

To be clear, most cops are not assholes like that, but their training emphasizes a shoot first ask questions later approach that ends up with some decent people making the wrong decision under pressure. Police should instead protect themselves by staying out of danger and letting the populace suffer the consequences of breeding crime through selfish social policies.

Snark aside, being that the U.S. is a country in which (in most places) owning and carrying firearms is not illegal, a “see a gun = open fire” policy is perhaps not the best approach either. This would (for example) have led police to aerate the guy who was parading around the Atlanta airport with a rifle, which would arguably have been a terrible tragedy.

Wow. I wondered how many Americans were being killed by police, and OP’s link (assuming it’s correct) shows that it’s as high as 1100+ per year. That’s a lot; it means that far more Americans are killed by American cops than are killed by terrorists. Far more Americans are killed by American cops than enemies in Iraq or Afghanistan, etc. Capital punishment is on the decline in the U.S., yet 1100 are killed annually by law enforcement for, e.g. making unexpected moves during traffic stops? :smack:

It would be good to see breakdowns of the total. How many of the dead were crazy people? How many were violent criminals (not cigarette vendors)? How many black? In any event, can we at least agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed?

Naah, how about requiring all police officers to patrol in pairs? Only when one gets shot (number of penetrations notwithstanding), is the second then allowed to fire. :rolleyes:

Not always true - and even so this doesn’t align with the scenarios you posited.

The affirmative defense of self defense can be asserted as long as a reasonable person would be in fear of their life or great bodily injury for themselves or of another (paraphrased from memory). This can occur if there is no evidence of a fight and if the person who is shot (not necessarily a victim) did not have a firearm. What you wrote above is not accurate.

An ordinary person would be able to employ deadly force in a greater number of situations than the four you put forward. Police procedure may need to be revised and or more training given, but in no circumstances should the police have less protection than an ordinary non police person.

If a person, law enforcement officer or not, can articulate that another person was doing something that would make a reasonable person fear that their life was in danger, that person is covered by the laws of self defense. A gun is not the only tool a person can use to cause harm.

The OP is inferring that there is a large amount of unjustified police shootings occurring. There aren’t. At least not in the eyes of society collectively.

Wrong! I’ve gone through these exercises. It’s closer to 30 feet.

How about a cite showing all the police shootings that occurred at 50 yards.