Informative Fair and Impartial Podcast: Do the legal rules for using deadly force, still make sense?

I found the Criminal Injustice with David A. Harris page today and listened to Episode 32 Do the legal rules for using deadly force, set by the Supreme Court in the 1980s, still make sense? Do they protect the officer and the public, or is it time to change how police make the decision to take a life? I found the discussion between David A. Harris a distinguished faculty scholar and professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, teaching courses in criminal law and criminal procedure. He is widely considered the leading national authority on police behavior and racial profiling in the United States and Dr. David Klinger a former cop to be very compelling, balanced and empirically based, which was quite refreshing,.

With all the anger on all sides of the police use of force debate I felt all police officers and leaders should hear this podcast as an illustration of how debates, discussions when focused on ideas and how to shape and reshape them with mutual respect instead of on attacking people with violence or words that impugn peoples reputations.

They also discuss and review very fairly and impartially yet critically the Police Executive Research Forum's Guiding Principals On Use Of Force. Klinger talks about the shortfalls in PERF's lack of understanding policing's history and the decades old policing principal known as Priority of Life challenging PERF's conventional wisdom they listed as #1 "The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything and agency does. Sanctity of life is, or should be, important to law enforcement officers already. Simply put the “Priority of Life” is demonstrated in this order:

  1. Hostages/Victims
  2. Innocent by-standers
  3. Police/First Responders
  4. Suspects/Subjects.

As for PERF's principal #2 "Agencies should continue to develop best policies, practices, and training on use of force issues that go beyond the minimum requirements of Graham v. Connor." Klinger argues (and I agree) that reasonableness should remain the standard for judging police use of force and that any efforts to judge an officer with 20/20 hindsight, when, the officer who used such force did not have that information when he made his use of force decision is just plainly unfair and unjust. "Never shooting at vehicles must be prohibited" another PERF Guiding Principal, Klinger criticizes as being foolish and shows that lack of understanding by PERF of deadly encounters and decision making under pressure.

Klinger did not just criticize PERF. He talked about how some of the ideas on training based on values, building relationships and trust throughout communities as being crucial to more effective policing. The tactical training ideas like creating distance and slowing things down in progressively unfolding situations in an effort to gain the advantage are crucial to improving police response to crisis situations, while at the same time build police legitimacy through sound strategy and tactics.

Author, expert and former officer Dr. David Klinger also talks police-involved shootings, cell phone video and best practices for de-escalation. He's studied police use of force for 25 years and published a book on the topic, Into the Kill Zone.

What's it like to have the legal sanction to shoot and kill? I read Klingers compelling book several years back which answered this, and many other questions about the oftentimes violent world inhabited by our nation's police officers. Written by a cop-turned university professor who interviewed scores of officers who have shot people in the course of their duties, Into the Kill Zone presents firsthand accounts of the role that deadly force plays in American police work.

Be sure to listen to the whole podcast EPISODE 32 so scroll down and take a listen.

“I think there is nothing more important for the government to track than the numbers of times that government agents try to kill people.”

— Dr. David Klinger

Klinger spoke on these issues on NPR's All Things Considered and with the New York Times.

Stay Oriented!