A study undertaken by Amnesty International USA has found that every state in the US is failing to comply with the minimum international standards on the lethal use of force by police.
The report also found that 13 US states, more than a quarter, fall beneath the legal standards outlined in US constitutional law, while 9 of those 13, shockingly, have NO laws whatsoever that encompass lethal use of force.
This means that in 9 states, police can kill someone and avoid the consequences by claiming they had no choice but to use lethal force.
“While law enforcement in the United States is given the authority to use lethal force, there is no equal obligation to respect and preserve human life. It’s shocking that while we give law enforcement this extraordinary power, so many states either have no regulation on their books or nothing that complies with international standards,” Amnesty USA executive director Steven Hawkins told the London Guardian.
Hawkins described the findings as evidence that law enforcement departments have a “shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life.”
The study compared the statutes regarding use of lethal force of all 50 states against international principles which outline that lethal force is only ever used “in order to protect life” in “unavoidable” circumstance and after attempts to employ “less extreme means” to manage the situation.
International standards also outline that law enforcement officers should always identify themselves and give a clear warning if they intend to use deadly force.
The study found that not one single US state complies with both these standards, and only 8 states have a requirement of a verbal warning before engaging in the use of deadly force.
“None of the laws establish the requirement that lethal force may only be used as a last resort with non-violent means and less harmful means to be tried first. The vast majority of laws do not require officers to give a warning of their intent to use firearms.” the study concluded.
Amnesty noted that the 13 states that fall below US constitutional standards have statutes which are so vague in their wording, that they can easily be manipulated to allow for use of force in practically any circumstance.
The report notes that in North Dakota, police are sanctioned to use deadly force if an individual “has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving violence.” The level and scope of said violence and felony are not outlined in any way.
The 9 states that do not have any laws regarding lethal use of force are Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming – in addition to Washington D.C.
The report notes that this means police in those state nearly always investigate the actions of their own officers based on some arbitrary standard they have comprised for the specific circumstance.
Perhaps the most troubling finding in the report outlines how in nine states, police are legally permitted to use lethal force during “rioting”. The study found that in Pennsylvania, lethal force can be used if it is deemed “necessary to suppress a riot or mutiny after the rioters or mutineers have been ordered to disperse.”
International standards on lethal force also require all police related deaths to be reported. The central database for this activity to be logged, an FBI database, is completely voluntary, however. This means it is not really known how many “justifiable homicides” there are in the US, and the figure could be exponentially more than official records show.
Amnesty recommends a nationwide review of police use of lethal force laws, in addition to a thorough review and reform of oversight and accountability mechanisms at all levels of government.
Given the recent spotlight on police brutality in the US, Amnesty believes that “this report will produce some energy for change.”
Of course, US states are not beholden to comply with international laws. However, the findings, correlated with the huge number of police related killings in the US compared to other developed nations, paints a clear picture.
“Those states can of course argue that they follow common law or supreme court standards, but is that good enough?” Hawkins said. “Certainly we would expect that international human rights standards are what should govern and our fear is that, unless these are clearly quantified, a citizen in any state can’t look at what the law is. That’s critically important to ensuring accountability.”
A separate study recently compiled by Fatal Encounters, an impartial nonprofit organisation working to build a national database of police killings in the US, found that cops in the US are responsible for way more deaths on American soil than terrorism since the year 2000. Indeed, in that time, police have killed at least 5,600 people via gunshots, taserings, beatings and other forms of violence. That figure represents more than the total number of US combat deaths in all wars since 2000.
Americans are, at the very least, eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.
Vox took the data gathered by Fatal Encounters and created an interactive map of every documented police killing over the past 15 years. It looks like this:
The organisation estimates that it has only captured about 35 percent of total police killings since 2000 so far. So at best, this map represents a minimum of police related killings over the past 15 years.
By those calculations, around SIXTEEN THOUSAND Americans are likely to have been killed by police in that time. Over 1000, every year.
In comparison with other first world nations; only three people were killed by police in 2014 in the UK; 12 people in Canada, and eight over the past two years in Germany. All this despite the fact that the crime index highlights that countries like the UK aren’t that far behind America in regards to overall crime rate.
The level of police killings only appears to be escalating into an epidemic. It is indicative of an endemic societal divide between Americans and their government (yes police work for the government).
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.
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