General Question

luigirovatti's avatar

Can a policeman consider him/herself good if (s)he kills someone, even respecting the law?

Asked by luigirovatti (1501points) 2 months ago

Because, the killing would be considered (religiously, maybe, I don’t know) bad for the “good” people. So, another question that can be posed is: When can a good person kill someone?

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33 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Of course not.
“Necessary evils” are still evils.
If you are on the verge of starving to death, and you steal a loaf of bread, you are still a thief.

Irukandji's avatar

The law is irrelevant in this case, as is the profession of the person doing the killing. The question is whether or not they’ve done something morally wrong. If they’ve done nothing morally wrong, then they can still be a good person.

That means we have to figure out if the killing itself was morally wrong. Most people think that killing in self-defense is not morally wrong (not even in the “necessary evil” sense). If that’s true, then someone who has killed another person in self-defense could still be a good person.

Other cases are more complicated. Is it morally wrong to kill a person in the defense of someone else’s life (for example, can a parent kill someone who is about to murder their child)? Again, most people would say that there are circumstances where that is not wrong.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Morally, IMO, you should never have to harness another human. This is from an ex LEO. But certain situations call for immediate action. Actions, that don’t necessarily have a “right” response, and had to be made in seconds.

Considering oneself “good,” is IMO not the way to perceive things, regardless of the situation….As a LEO, you are to protect, and serve. There are very few occurrences, in which killing someone accomplishes either, by killing someone…

Again, this is from a former LEO. The men under my control, we’re supposed to use restraint tactics, unless the person of interest, had a weapon. In which case, I told them to attempt to kill that person. I often was the HOS (head of security,) in soft target situations. If a person pulled a knife, or gun, they were to be killed…. That’s not “good,” but is the lesser of two evils… Often, there is no “good” option, in that situation…

rebbel's avatar

How about, instead of “kill that person”, neutralize him in a non-lethal manor (shoot them in the leg/arm, or tazer them)?

stanleybmanly's avatar

You’re doing the thing with English again. The answer is of course he CAN. perhaps you mean to ask whether he SHOULD consider him/herself good, but even that question is screwed up. It’s actually fascinating the difficulties that arise with language and translation. When you say good in this instance, do you mean justified?

flutherother's avatar

Killing someone is acceptable only in self-defence. That seems morally OK and OK in law also. But what counts as self-defence? That’s where things become less clear cut.

luigirovatti's avatar

@stanleybmanly: I mean, if that person justifies him/herself as a good person.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s what I thought, but it’s a meaningless question. On the one hand the policeman is both trained and equipped to kill. Is that good? He is paid to utilize that training and equipment when necessary. Who can determine what he should or will think? Guilt or remorse will be as variable among individuals as the circumstances around the killings. It’s a hopeless question, another item for your junk wagon.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I looked up the New York State statues covering the use of deadly force. “This site”: summarizes the penal code nicely. (I will quote a subset of it.)
Under certain conditions the State allows the use of deadly force and considers the actor a law abiding citizen.

Cutting and paraphrasing:
“A person may use deadly physical force upon another person… if:
(a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or
about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the
actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with
complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the
necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no
duty to retreat if he or she is:
(i) in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor; or
(ii) a police officer or peace officer or a person assisting a police
officer or a peace officer at the latter`s direction, acting pursuant to
section 35.30; or
(b) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing
or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal
sexual act or robbery;”

See the full text. There are more details.

kritiper's avatar

A killing can be acceptable if all of the rules of proper gunplay have been observed by the person in question. These rules can, and in some cases do, go above and beyond what @LuckyGuy noted above. For example, would you feel that you were in the right if you shot someone just because you THOUGHT they might pull a gun or knife on you? With proper gunplay, that’s not good enough.

luigirovatti's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Why kill a guy who robs?

kritiper's avatar

@rebbel Shooting a person in the leg or arm is not acceptable. They can countersue you for their injuries and then you pay. And pay. AND PAY! It’s not worth it. If you are going to shoot, shoot to kill. Always. No exceptions.

rebbel's avatar

@kritiper Was there meant to be a [sarcasm mode on] at the beginning of your response?
I hope so :-)

luigirovatti's avatar

I’d flag kritiper’s response, but it doesn’t work.

janbb's avatar

I think if you become a police person in the USA you have accepted the fact that you may have to kill someone at some point “in the line of duty.” If that isn’t a part of your moral code, than you don’t seek out that profession.

I don’t agree with @kritiper and certainly the use of as little force as is needed to diffuse a situation should be taught and used. There should be training and I suspect there is in the reduction of the use of deadly force.

rebbel's avatar

@luigirovatti Why would you want to flag it?

luigirovatti's avatar

@rebbel: He’s heiling to shooting. “It’s a personal attack” (reason for flag)

rebbel's avatar

You feel it as a personal attack on you?
It doesn’t read like that to me, but I can be wrong.

seawulf575's avatar

I would guess that if a cop shot and killed someone that threatened their life, they would live with that for the rest of his life. He/she might get over the bad feeling of taking another life, but it would still be there. I have a good friend that was a cop. He got called to investigate a suspicious vehicle. When he got to the place, he got out of his car and the guy who owned the suspicious vehicle got out and started shooting. My friend was hit a couple times in the torso (thank goodness he was wearing his vest) and a couple times in the leg. He managed to pull his gun and shoot back, killing the perpetrator. I know that killing a person was not something he wanted to do, but was in a him-or-me position and just reacted. Other than basically having to use a cane at a minimum for the rest of his life, he survived.

luigirovatti's avatar

@rebbel: What if @kritiper wanted the police to shoot me, even by mistake, for example?

rebbel's avatar

I’m pretty sure that is not what they meant.
But maybe @kritiper will come and clarify.

Irukandji's avatar

@ragingloli “If you are on the verge of starving to death, and you steal a loaf of bread, you are still a thief.”

And if you kill someone, you’re still a killer. But the question isn’t whether doing an action makes you someone who did that action. It’s whether that action is always and in all circumstances morally wrong (and could therefore make you a bad person). Someone who steals a loaf of bread is a thief, but being a thief isn’t always wrong. Sometimes, it may be morally neutral or even morally right to steal. Consider, for example, everyone who helped enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad. Slaves were considered property, and helping them escape was considered theft. But only the most ardent moral absolutist would say that what they did was morally wrong (and it would only go to show how deluded morally absolutism really is).

@kritiper “If you are going to shoot, shoot to kill.”

This is absurd. First, killing should always be a last resort. Second, the family of whoever you killed can also sue. Third, de-escalation has been used successfully by police officers all over Europe (not everyone lives in the US). And fourth, the laws of every country where killing in self-defense is legal also indemnify people from being sued when they are deemed to have availed themselves of that right (doubly so for police officers in the US, where the Supreme Court has routinely found that they cannot be sued for anything done in the course of fulfilling their duties so long as there is a scenario under which it would not count as a violation of the law).

kritiper's avatar

@rebbel No, no sarcasm intended. Gunplay is a serious, deadly game and everyone who attempts to play must learn this.
@Irukandji It is not absurd. If you can’t play the game, don’t. A gun should only be pulled when there is no other alternative. NONE! Otherwise, the player stands to lose.

kritiper's avatar

If someone gets shot by mistake, then someone was not playing by the rules, and must suffer the consequences.
(In prior comments, the word “you” means a general identification, an imagined adversary, some person who might be involved in a shooting versus myself, in my consideration of the subject, not to mean or point to anyone here in particular.)

Zaku's avatar

Depends on what your morality is like, and what the circumstances were.

My answer would be yes, absolutely, if the killing is justified, such as in the case of actually necessary defense of self or others.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@rebbel . Most venues, that I worked, none of my guys, had weapons. But many were ex-military, including current military. My orders were to kill (if someone pulled a deadly weapon, ) because we had no tazers, or non-lethal tools. When you have a place, packed with 1,500 people, you can’t let someone start shooting. That is/was the main reason for my orders. I told them straight up, if you see a person pull a gun, try to incapacitate them, even if that means a possible killing tactic. Most of my men,myself included, know/knew how to kill, hand to hand.

I’ve been stabbed, and shot at. In each instance, I put the man down, with no concern about his life. When possible, I would disarm them, and throw the weapon far away, and restrain them. But have seriously hurt people who pulled weapons. The guy who shot at me, did so from his truck, after I kicked him out. He took his shot, and sped off. He hit my building, close to the green room. I haven’t been stabbed, with a knife, just broken beer bottles. Those who pulled knives, I used a metal chair, to subdue. I kept one, by the front door, of each venue I worked unarmed.

I have beaten a few men, to the point where they may have died. Luckily, they didn’t. I usually just choked them out (not legal, but better than killing them,) or tore their shoulder up.

With all due respect, it’s very easy to make statements, like just shoot him in the leg. Some people are on powerful drugs, and need more than that, to stop them.

I’ve stated before, that I hated hurting people. I still have nightmares, about what I’ve done to some people. But if you truly knew me, you’d know, that I felt that there was no other option…
There’s a reason that I don’t do that work, anymore. If I never have to hurt anyone, for the rest of my life, I’ll be comforted by that, on my death bed…

I’m not a “good person.” I tried to de-escalate EVERY situation. But I failed sometimes…The result, was me seriously injuring some men. Or having one of my men, get hurt. Which I place full blame on myself for…

Being a LEO, does indeed mean, that you may have to kill someone. That’s something that I couldn’t live with anymore. So… I quit law enforcement. I have PTSD, from what I’ve done. I have started a new career, and it’s not going great. But… At least I don’t have to hurt anyone, anymore… In retrospect, I think I did the best I could, to not hurt people. But as I said, there are situations, where it is the only option.

I’m very good, at hurting people, or fighting multiple people. But, it is a curse. I often wish, I was never born. Then, I couldn’t have done, what I have done…

I take NO pride, in the pain, and suffering, that I was forced to inflict on others… I am ashamed of it. I could be making a LOT more money, if I stayed in the profession. Now. I can barely pay my bills, and am lucky to eat once a day…

I judge myself, very seriously, for what I’ve been. I KNOW that there are others like me. Haunted by their past, and trying to be a better person. Not every LEO, enjoys their job. Especially when it comes to violence. We get burnt out, and mentally fatigued by it.

I am sorry for my long post. I just wanted to let you know that being a LEO, sucks…

Peace n love.

jca2's avatar

When you’re employed by an agency (police department, municipality, security company, etc.) you are not getting sued personally, @Irukandji. The employer is getting sued. The employer is responsible for you while you’re at work.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@luigirovatti You asked “Why kill a guy who robs?”

There is a strict legal definition of Robbery. Basically it is taking someone’s property by violence or intimidation. That includes physically attacking or intimidating someone with a weapon.

Burglary is entering someone else’s property and taking items. That is very different from robbery.

I had been using the terms interchangeably but now that I know the difference I will use them correctly.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@jca2 . Regardless of the company you work for, you’re still held accountable for your actions. Yes. My company had a lawyer. A great lawyer. As lawyers go… But the HOS, is ultimately the one responsible for any law suit, or harmed/killed individual. They will be drug tested, and grilled, by higher authorities, when something goes sideways.

One of our guys, killed a man, on accident. He was jailed, and served time, for manslaughter. The guy was eventually cleared of all charges. But he went to jail, for several months. I personally didn’t think he was a good officer. He was too hot headed. But he is a free man now.
A guy “charged his door,” at a strip club. He pushed him down, and the guy hit his head. He died on scene. Lawyers, or not, he got worked over, as he should have been. But even a LEO, has to face the consequences of harming someone. Regardless of the circumstances. A lot of people think we just kill people, and get a free pass. That’s not the case… Just saying. There’s a lot of responsibility, you take on, as a LEO….

jca2's avatar

@MrGrimm888: I know LEO’s can be charged with a crime and I know LEO’s will be in court, testifying to what occurred. I was referring to @Irukandji‘s seeming to think if you are employed and you do something wrong, you will be sued personally. If I, as a caseworker, went to someone’s house and accidentally broke their vase (just an example – not a great example but I can’t think of one right now), my employer is responsible to compensate the person, I am not.

Irukandji's avatar

@kritiper “If you can’t play the game, don’t.”

It’s not a game if there’s only one move available.

“A gun should only be pulled when there is no other alternative.”

First, there’s no situation where pulling a gun is the only alternative. Self-defence is a choice. Second, a gun being the only viable strategy for self-defence is not the same as killing being the only viable strategy for self-defence, and anyone who doesn’t realize this is unqualified to be using a gun.

@jca2 “I was referring to @Irukandji‘s seeming to think if you are employed and you do something wrong, you will be sued personally”

Try reading what I actually wrote. It was a response to @kritiper saying you can’t be sued if you kill someone. My response was that killing someone does not protect you from litigation. It just changes who starts the process. And we were talking about private citizens killing in self-defense as well as police officers on the job.

And for what it’s worth, you are wrong. Anyone can be named in a lawsuit, and anyone can be sued personally. Nothing prevents me from filing a suit against anyone whose name I know. All the law protects them from is being held liable if my suit is baseless. Your client could absolutely sue you, but they’d lose if your actions were part of doing your job because it is your employer who is liable for such actions. If you did something completely outside the scope of your job, however, you could be held personally liable in certain circumstances.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Trust me. LEOs are investigated, if they harm.someone. I’ve been to court multiple times, for just unarmed situations. I’ve luckily been cleared, each time.

One night, at a hotel I ran security for, I was called to a room. A guy had broken his girlfriend’s foot, and injured her, in a couple other ways. I had the police on the way, and I told him to sit in a chair. He cooperated, at first. The woman had cancer, and the guy had stolen her pain meds, and drank a lot, on top of that. As we waited for the cops, the woman was limping around, and suddenly said, I’m going to call my sister. The guy then lept from the chair, and charged her. I grabbed him, by his neck, and arm. He ran up the wall, and tried to get away from me. I never let go, and I never hurt him. He struggled with me, for several minutes. I held him, and never released him. He would struggle and fight, and then take a few moments to breathe. Then he would go back trying to attack the woman. This went on for about 15 minutes, until the police arrived. I never hurt him. Just restrained him. It was crazy though. He was relentless.
When the cops arrived, they cuffed him, and sat him on the street. He started banging his head, against the ground. He fucked his face up.good, before we could stop him.
He went to jail. But he sued me, for the damage he did, to himself. It was my first court hearing, for excessive force. He claimed that I had been the one that hurt him. I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out that he didn’t show up, leaving me in the clear. But yes. You can sue anyone, for just about anything.

I have been sued, for excessive force, multiple times. Most of the time, the guys never showed up. They left town. Usually, because they had warrents on them, from other states, and when they bailed out of jail, they left.

I never shot anyone. I never used anything, but my hands. But people were hurt. Yes. Their families could have sued me. I lucked out, I guess….

My company had a great lawyer. He kept me out of a lot of trouble. And being a LEO, helped.

I used to carry a gun, or knife, all the time. Over time, I became more confident with my own hand to hand experience.

Killing, or shooting someone, is not within my personal code of ethics. I will admit, that I’ve pulled my shotgun, on multiple people who approached my door, unannounced. But, I didn’t keep it loaded. I just pumped it. That got the point across.

“Gun play,” is bullshit. It is fir trained professionals, in a last resort situation…

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