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Copyright (c) 1983 Howard University
Howard Law Journal

ARTICLE: Accountability of Law Enforcement Officers in the Use of Deadly Force.


26 How. L.J. 119




The importance of law enforcement officers 1 in today's society is without question. This importance hinges on their unique responsibility to initiate the criminal justice process, 2 as well as to carry out a myriad of services that benefit society. The majority of law enforcement officers in this country are professional, dedicated individuals who execute their sworn duties in a responsible and judicious manner. But there is a need for accountability within the ranks of all law enforcement organizations and agencies throughout the United States. 3 Accountability of law enforcement officers is of special importance because this unique class of citizens is granted the right to carry and use deadly weapons. Where authority to use deadly weapons against other citizens exists there also exists the potential for abuse. To minimize this potential for abuse, the conditions under which law enforcement officers may use deadly force must be strictly proscribed. We as a society must insure that law enforcement officers and agencies function in an effective manner and, at the same time, function without abuse to citizens.

In recent years, interest and concern has heightened in this country concerning the death penalty for convicted murderers, yet there has been little interest surrounding the most frequent means by which the State takes a life. According to official statistics, at least once each day, somewhere in the United States, a law enforcement officer fires a weapon at a civilian. 4 The discharge of firearms is the most common form of deadly force ...
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