Police Use of Deadly Force

Law enforcement agencies of any state attend, first of all, one single goal – to protect the citizens. Any country cares about the well-being of its residents and therefore creates specialized organizations that work to ensure this well-being. The purpose of the police is to monitor compliance with the law in all its manifestations. The policemen were granted extensive powers to fulfill the assigned task, including the right to use deadly force. The purpose of this essay is to analyze this privilege both from a personal point of view and from society using specific examples.

First of all, the main goal of the police is to protect citizens. In a way, this law enforcement agency performs functions similar to the state’s army. The main difference between the two structures is that the police protect civilians from attacks from the inside, from illegal actions of violators of the law. In the context of this comparison, the use of lethal force by the police is justified permission. Naturally, law enforcement agencies should be trained in a way as to prevent the use of force and stop the dangerous situation from developing to such a state (Dunham & Petersen, 2017). However, there are several factors why this right is necessary. In countries where weapons are widely distributed among the population, as in America, there is always a risk of its use not for self-defense, but attack. Even in countries where there are practically no civilian weapons in free circulation, the risk of some residents attacking others is still present. To reduce this threat or be able to prevent a critical situation, the police must have the right to use firearms.

It should be understood that, regardless of the prohibition laws, people can always violate them and use force to achieve their goals. At the same time, most people cannot protect themselves in such a situation. As long as elements in society that are willing to commit crimes exists, there must be a force that can ensure universal protection. The police are acting as this power, and as a law enforcement agency established by the state, it has the right to resort to even such measures to comply with general security. Summarizing the statements above, I believe that the police certainly should have the right to use deadly force. However, it is worth noting that this right must be strictly regulated by law; each of such incidents should be accountable. Law enforcement departments have to establish a formal police force policy and monitor its implementation (Dunham & Petersen, 2017). Cases of abuse of this right should not be allowed, as it is quite dangerous.

Unfortunately, the use of force is far from always authorized, and police officers may not be responsible for their actions. Ultimately, public trust in the police is declining, as citizens fear that officers will abuse their rights. Due to this, public opinion regarding the use of lethal force by the policemen was divided. The main issue related to the use of force by officers is the legitimacy of the use of such measures. However, it is complicated to track whether the use of weapons by the law was justified when the situation was already over, and the only evidence of what happened was the words of the officer. As a result, there is a need to increase the transparency of the actions of police officers.

In this regard, the society is actively developing an initiative for the use of so-called body-worn cameras, or BWCs for short, by police officers in the daily work. Over the past few years, interest in this technology has increased due to several complex and high-profile court cases involving police-citizen relationships (Sousa et al., 2018). BWCs are a simple and relatively reliable tool that allows getting an objective point of view on the situation during the work of the policeman. With their introduction, the opportunity to hide or change some details in the officers’ reports disappears, since there will be video material that provides a look at the situation. It is assumed that many employees will be equipped with these cameras, the public will gain access to cases from different points of view, which eliminates the possibility of hiding some points. The federal government is also interested in such technology, and studies show that society fully supports the introduction of this measure (Sousa et al., 2018). Thus, in the community, there is no negative attitude towards the use of lethal force per se. However, there is a need to build more transparent and trusting relations between the police and citizens, which is expressed in the adoption of additional policies and the introduction of individual control measures.

This need arose due to the significant number of cases of power abuse. It is especially true for individuals whose skin color is different from white. This behavior was laid back in the middle of the last century since studies show that in 1966 three out of four officers had strong prejudices against African Americans (Dunham & Petersen, 2017). These resentments led to the appearance of many sensational incidents, such as the death of Arthur McDuffie and the riots in Miami in 1980 (Dunham & Petersen, 2017). Unfortunately, these preconceptions and racist views among police officers have survived to this day. Given demographics, in 2015, the probability that a police officer would shot a black man was 2.5 times higher than the possibility of the death of a white person (Cesario et al., 2019). The same terrible incidents still happen in modern America; for example, the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014 (Ray et al., 2017). His death caused a huge public outcry and led to the creation of the social movement Black Lives Matter.

Thus, it can be confidently stated that there are valid reasons for the use of lethal force by the police. However, this right must be very strictly controlled by law enforcement agencies. Today, in America, there is a situation of distrust of citizens in the law enforcement agency due to the regular abuse of authority by officers. Since such relationships both undermine the effectiveness of the police and worsen the social situation as a whole, measures are being taken to restore citizens’ confidence. Society as a whole is not opposed to the use of lethal force by the law, but there is a need for transparency of the police and stricter control over them. Otherwise, it results in such terrible incidents as the death of Michael Brown. Therefore, police officers should have the right to use deadly force; however, this right should be strictly controlled.


Cesario, J., Johnson, D. J., & Terrill, W. (2019). Is there evidence of racial disparity in police use of deadly force? Analyses of officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015–2016. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(5), 586-595. Web.

Dunham, R. G., & Petersen, N. (2017). Making black lives matter: Evidence-based policies for reducing police bias in the use of deadly force. Criminology & Public Policy, 16(1), 341-348. Web.

Ray, R., Brown, M., Fraistat, N., & Summers, E. (2017). Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown on Twitter: #BlackLivesMatter, #TCOT, and the evolution of collective identities. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(11), 1797-1813. Web.

Sousa, W. H., Miethe, T. D., & Sakiyama, M. (2018). Inconsistencies in public opinion of body-worn cameras on police: Transparency, trust, and improved police–citizen relationships. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 12(1), 100-108. Web.