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Failing Grades: Police Use of Deadly Force on the Rise

Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson of Cleveland, Ohio. Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York. Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina. These are five names and five cities that you may have heard in the news over the last year. These people have one thing in common, and it is the manner in which they died – at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Police Deadly ForceThe point of mentioning these names is not to reexamine the cases to determine whether any of those killings were justified (in fact, the officer who killed Walter Scott is now charged with murder).1 Instead, it is to point out the sobering fact that these are just five people out of the estimated hundreds killed by police officers each year. Staggeringly, the figure lies between 930 and 1,240 annual deaths per year, with the exact number remaining unknown because there is no national consensus on how the figures are reported.2

The lack of a consensus approach to reporting the number of killings by police is just one symptom of a larger problem in the United States that has drawn the ire of Amnesty International USA. The non-governmental organization, which is dedicated to ending human rights violations around the world, released a scathing report in which it declares that law enforcement agencies in all 50 states in the U.S. are failing to comply with international standards regarding the use of deadly force.

Falling Below International Standards

Article 3 of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.”3 The comments on the article explain that the use of a firearm by a law enforcement officer is “an extreme measure. Every effort should be made to exclude the use of firearms, especially against children. In general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardizes the lives of others and less extreme measures are not sufficient to restrain or apprehend the suspect. In every instance in which a firearm is discharged, a report should be made promptly to the proper authorities.”4

According to Amnesty International, not a single state in this country has a law that mirrors the language in the U.N.’s code. Furthermore, 13 states do not even have use of force laws that reflect U.S. constitutional standards, and no state has accountability standards for officer-involved killings, such as filing reports when an officer uses his or her firearm, or independent investigations into a killing by an officer.5

Resisting Arrest Could Cost Your Life

Though the report calls upon the legislative bodies of each state to enact new standards to deal with the problem of officer-involved killings, those laws are likely many years away from becoming reality.

Resisting Arrest RiversideIn the meantime, it is important for anyone who is facing arrest in California to remember that if an officer decides to arrest you, you must remain calm and patient, and make no sudden moves. While many police officers are professional and able to remain calm during a confrontation, sudden movements can trigger even a veteran officer’s reflexive training when he or she perceives you as a threat. In many cases of officer-involved killings, that instinctive reaction contributed to the death of the arrestee.

Going peacefully is difficult, especially when you feel you have done nothing wrong. However, keeping your cool could save you not only from facing additional charges for resisting arrest, but also from a far worse fate. Remember, you have a right to avail yourself of the criminal justice system, and you have the right to have an attorney fight this battle for you. Your vindication may be delayed, but allowing the process to play itself out is a far better fate than losing your life in the heat of the arrest.

Contact the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich for Help

If you or someone you love has been arrested, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients against all types of criminal charges for over 30 years. We know that facing criminal charges can affect you for the rest of your life, and we are dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with the best defense possible.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in criminal defense near you, no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free, no obligation phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [Michael S. Schmitt and Matt Apuzzo, “South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott,” New York Times, April 7, 2015, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-officer-is-charged-with-murder-in-black-mans-death.html?_r=0.]
2. [Carl Bialik, “A New Estimate Of Killings By Police Is Way Higher — And Still Too Low,” FiveThirtyEight.com, March 6, 2015, available at http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-new-estimate-of-killings-by-police-is-way-higher-and-still-too-low/.]
3. [General Assembly resolution 34/169, Code of conduct for law enforcement officials, A/RES/34/169 (17 available from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/LawEnforcementOfficials.aspx.]
4. [Id.]
5. [Amnesty International USA, “Amnesty International Report Finds That All 50 States Fail to Meet International Standards on the Use of Lethal Force by Police,” Press Release of June 18, 2015, available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/amnesty-international-report-finds-that-all-50-states-fail-to-meet-international-standards-on-the-us.]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.