Unanswered [1] / Urgent [0] / SERVICES
Home / Research Papers   3

Justified Homicide or Murder? The Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement.


I wrote my paper based on first hand knowledge and I also referenced some case law and credible sources. I felt my paper needed more examples but I was running out of space, the word limit, to use more examples. This topic is complex in nature so I felt it was important to define and explain terms we use in law enforcement; therefore, I felt the examples suffered in lieu of defining and explaining. I would like to get an opinion and some feedback. I have not received any feedback yet from posting on the discussion board and I have to work from 2 pm - 12 am today so I am trying to squeeze this in before work. I get ready between the time that are we are supposed to meet. I am going to try and get ready before hand so I can be available for the discussion. Look forward to reading your feedback and any advice you can provide on my paper.

Justified Homicide or Murder?
The Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement.
William R. Lucito
Arizona State University

This paper will help identify the causes and effects from the use of deadly force by law enforcement. It will explain what deadly force is and when it should be applied. This document will define deadly force, justifiable homicide and explain the reasonableness and necessary actions taken in a use of force situation. This paper will explain the investigative process and the reason that some officers/agents may or may not have been prosecuted in the use of deadly force encounters.

The use of deadly force is defined as, "force that is likely to cause serious physical injury or death" (Office of Training and Development, 2014). Deadly force is to be used in those type of situations by which officers/agents feel it is necessary. When using deadly force, many factors can decide when such force is necessary and when it should be applied. For example, "Authorized Officers/Agents may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of serious physical injury or death to the officer/agent or to another person" (Office of Training and Development, 2014). As a Firearms Instructor for a law enforcement agency, I explain certain circumstances that can be used to justify deadly force. However, it is not my goal to have the officers/agents thinking that deadly force is the only option that is available.

Justifiable homicide is defined as, "a police deadly force encounter in which an officer kills a suspect who is presenting a clear threat to the life of that officer or others would be classified as a justifiable homicide" (Miller, 2015). This term to some may seem like an oxymoron, but as an officer/agent in law enforcement, this means the difference between being charged with murder or being cleared of any wrong doing.

In regards to these definitions, an officer/agent must to be able to distinguish which use of force is necessary and reasonable in each situation. Each use of force encounter is different and must be handled accordingly. "The 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force is based on the totality of circumstances known by the officer/agent at the time of the use of force and weighs the actions of the officer/agent against the rights of the subject, in light of the circumstances surrounding the event. Reasonableness will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer/agent on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight" (Office of Training and Development, 2014). The use of force in any particular situation must be taken with the totality of the circumstances. Also, the circumstances surrounding any use of force encounter are rapidly evolving, uncertain and tense, meaning that all evidence will be taken into consideration when investigating each individual case.

With the explanation of reasonableness, necessary actions must be met in each individual case. Whether that is officer presence, less-lethal or deadly force. "A use of force is "necessary" when it is reasonably required to carry out the Authorized Officer's/Agent's law enforcement duties in a given situation, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of such particular situation. A use of deadly force is "necessary" when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer/agent or to another person" (Office of Training and Development, 2014). In regards to necessary in a use of force encounter, it is important for the officer/agent to escalate or de-escalate the situation according to the rapidly changing circumstances. This is very important because officers/agents might only have a spilt second to make those kind of decisions.

These definitions and explanations are important to understand before engaging in the events that have recently occurred. These definitions and explanations might help one to understand the process that an officer/agent must take when deciding the necessary action in a use of force encounter.

When a deadly force situation occurs, there is an investigation that takes place to gather all evidence and circumstances surrounding the incident. The law enforcement agency that I work under has a certain criterion that has to be met when a deadly force incident occurs. The timetable to report such incident is within an hour of the incident. Personnel involved will be interviewed by the investigating agency, which usually is the FBI due to fact that we are a federal law enforcement agency. Furthermore, all deadly force incidents are presented in front of a grand jury to determine whether or not there will be charges brought upon the officer/agent.

In recent cases that have been of high public interest, some cases have been found to be justified. For instance, the Michael Brown case. This case sparked public outrage due to the nature of the footage shown. While some still believe that it was a homicide, the Department of Justice conducted an investigation into the use of deadly force. The purpose of the FBI's investigation into the Michael Brown case to sum up all of the circumstances surrounding the shooting. "At approximately noon on Saturday, August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department ("FPD") shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. The Criminal Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") (collectively, "The Department") subsequently opened a criminal investigation into whether the shooting violated federal law. The Department has determined that the evidence does not support charging a violation of federal law" (Justice, 2015). There was a totality of circumstances taken in this event that led investigators to believe that Officer Darren Wilson was innocent of any wrong doing.

The process to investigate the Michael Brown case was a long and thorough process. While the investigation was taking place there was chaos in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The public outrage due to the graphic video of Michael Brown being shot sparked racial tension between the law enforcement and the public.

(Center, 2014)
While there are many more cases that can be discussed, this one has sparked many feelings towards law enforcement agencies and their use of deadly force. Since the Ferguson incident, there has been a rise in public interest in use of force incidents involving law enforcement. Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are just some recent deadly force cases that have been investigated or are currently being investigated. All have sparked public outrage in one form or another. Whatever the case may be, the investigation process will determine whether or not in each of these cases if a reasonable officer/agent used the necessary force during their encounter.

Center, P. R. (2014, August 18). Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting. Washington, D.C.
Justice, U. S. (2015). Department of Justice report regarding the criminal investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson / Department of Justice. Washington, D.C.: [Washington, D.C.] : Department of Justice, 2015.

Miller, L. (2015). Why cops kill: The psychology of police deadly force encounters. Agression and Violent Behavior, 97-111.
Office of Training and Development. (2014, May). Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook.

Hi, your topic seems overly ambitious for such a short paper. What is the main purpose of the paper? To give a detailed analysis of how we differentiate between justified homicide and murder? That seems like it could take pages and pages.

Maybe you could narrow it down by starting off with the Ferguson case and then talk specifically about why this was determined to be justified homicide. That way you could introduce the definitions to explain your answer, instead of just beginning by laying out a list of legal definitions. It just seems like that may "grab the reader" a little better and allow you to integrate the legal definitions into the essay in a way that makes more sense.
hello wlocito, your topic was totally good for us especially for Law student because they can get a lot of new information and new education to make them more expert to analyze about that subject. but, i have a few question to you behind of your hand knowledge about Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement. why you make a conclusion that deadly force is better treatment for the people? however, it irrelevant to do that because of human rights that people have as gift from The God. what do you think about that?

thank you for your attention and also i'll wait for your feedback.

Home / Research Papers / Justified Homicide or Murder? The Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement.