General Question

Afos22's avatar

How many people do police shoot?

Asked by Afos22 (3990points) September 13th, 2010

How many people do police shoot? and. How many people do police kill? it seems as though the government gets away with murder all the time…

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28 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

The people allow the police the ability to kill others in defense of the law-abiding. The fact that this is not always the case is just as much a failure of citizens failing to ensure that police are properly trained and held accountable when they kill in an unjustified manner as it is the failure of the individual officer him or herself.

FactFromFictionTruthFromDction's avatar

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. Interesting link, @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard. One thing to point out is those figures say “justifiable” homocides, but what about unjustifiable? What are the racial percentages of those?

Afos22's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard How can we as people see ending the life of another a justifiable in any case?

TexasDude's avatar

@Afos22, if a raging meth head is chasing down a woman with a giant shard of glass and a cop shoots him, I’d say that’s more than justifiable.

iamthemob's avatar


If someone was about to kill your mother (or another loved one) and the only perceivable way to stop them was by killing them instead…that’s justifiable.

Afos22's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Would you call the cop a murderer. I would. This hypothetical man never harmed the woman. So, it is unjustifiable.
@iamthemob If it was my mother it would be a little closer to home. But, I’m not sure what I would do; I’ve never been in such a predicament. But, are you saying it is justifiable b/c my mother is the victim, and this “someone” is a bad guy?

TexasDude's avatar

@Afos22, no, I wouldn’t. I’d call him a defender. You have to err on the side of caution with attackers, whether they are hypothetical or real. One life taken may equal several lives saved. No matter what you might personally believe, there are bad guys out there who will hurt or kill innocent people, and the only way to stop an armed bad guy is with an armed good guy. Like @iamthemob, part of our social contract with the government is that we give cops the authority to kill those bad guys when they need to. I know that there are plenty of examples of cops killing innocents, but those instances represent a lack of oversight or judgment. Despite whatever the repression fantasy du jour is, cops statistically don’t kill very often, and most often only do when deemed absolutely necessary and after exhausting every other option.

And before this turns into a discussion of less lethal vs. lethal defenses, read this thread.

iamthemob's avatar

@Afos22 We need to separate “justifiable” from “right”. Taking another life is never right – but sometimes, it’s the lesser of two evils. That’s why we need better trained, closely monitored officers on the streets. Defense against crime, unfortunately, necessitates that some criminals face death in the immediate circumstances they have chosen to place themselves in. (I add immediacy as a requirement to emphasize that sometimes we’ll make the wrong choice, but that is the risk a criminal has chosen, and also to illustrate the difference between a death during a crime in progress and the death penalty, which I am against).

Afos22's avatar

Thing is, “eye for an eye” makes sense, but some victims of police shootings hadn’t actually killed anyone. And lethal projectiles are pretty outdated. There are plenty of ways that an officer could stop a potential criminal without taking the one thing that can not be returned. Their one life.

iamthemob's avatar

@Afos22 “eye for an eye” only makes sense from a revenge perspective, not a prevention perspective. Officers need to be able to shoot offenders to protect themselves from perceived harm as well. If a reasonable person would be afraid for their life, or if it is reasonable to think that killing an offender will save a victim, then we have to accept that. Otherwise, we hinder the people meant to protect us in too significant a manner.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Unfortunately, not all police shootings are justifiable. In the 80’s, in Rampart Division in L.A. the LAPD (some of them) ran a murder for hire operation where they murdered certain people and then put a gun in the victim’s hands to make it look like a justifiable shooting.

Read all about it

rooeytoo's avatar

Not nearly as many as non cops kill each year.

Not every cop is as professional nor as intelligent nor as able to think quickly as others. But they are all trained to do a mostly thankless and dangerous job and most do it well.

Batsh1t_Cat_Lady's avatar

Citizens enter into a contract with their government (the federal government in the case of the United States, rather than a regional or provisional one) in which a mutually beneficial relationship unfolds.

—> The citizen receives protection from raging meth heads per @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard‘s hypothetical, and in return, the government funds such “executive” institutions as your local police jurisdiction using tax revenue.

It is essential for this government, operating for and by you, to hold a monopoly on the violence within the state to the best of its ability. While this holds no counter to your garden variety street-level violence, some amount of protection must be afforded (lest you and I be up in arms demanding a revolution).

Ben_Dover's avatar

No one is arguing against law enforcement. They are a necessary evil in this country and almost worldwide it would seem.
However, what some people here are arguing is that these same protectors abuse their police powers and fatally shoot and kill innocent persons of whom they were not in hot pursuit during a commission of a crime.
Some of these police, in fact, were found guilty by a jury of their peers as having murdered people in cold blood… for money. Murder for hire.
And one could go a step further and argue that the need for police in our society is necessitated only because of the criminally insane manner in which we have allowed our elected officials and wealthy elite to run things. The manner in which things are being run forces incredible hardships on far more people who actually support the system than it forces on the leeches who take the largest shares and do the least work.

But hey, fear not. The way these nuts are running our countries indicates that the gravy train is ending and you better grab high and hard for the gold ring, because they are running things into the ground.

Or have we already forgotten the way somebody scored trillions of dollars off the variable mortgage scams of the early 21st century and how the banks and their cronies re-acquired all those foreclosed properties…Took it all and left how many homeless?

Yes, it is no wonder the wealthy and the haves require armed security for defense against the less fortunate and have-nots who shoulder all the burden. These are indeed the kinds of pressures which evokes…. rebellious attitudes.
We are just lucky that these armed defenders have enough integrity on the most part that they often use their powers to the benefit of the less privileged.

Nuff said.

laureth's avatar

Re: “And one could go a step further and argue that the need for police in our society is necessitated only because of the criminally insane manner in which we have allowed our elected officials and wealthy elite to run things.”

Along with city living, public construction, civil religion, and agriculture, two other hallmarks of civilization are a stratified society, and a government which monopolizes the legitimate use of force. (You find this all the way back to the fertile crescent, folks, look it up.)

So, if the idea of cops (part of the executive branch of government) and military being placed as legitimate executors of force on behalf of the government (elected or not) bothers you, and you don’t like the idea of a stratified society (be it king-noble-merchant-peasant or president-CEO-middle class-welfare recipients-homeless) which is veritably the definition of civilization, one has a couple choices.

1. Live in a cabin in Montana, with the option of using civilization’s mail system to send nasty surprises to the top of that stratified society,

or 2. Learn how to get along in society anyway, because there aren’t that many uncivilized places left.

It’s absolutely wrong for those who are charged with keeping peace through state-sanctioned violence to wield that power abusively, for sure. But I would stop short of saying that all shootings (even to death) by police are the same as murder.

Civilization is what keeps us glued together in a (relatively) peaceful way. Without some rules and order, this many people would not be able to live together; it would be anarchy and chaos, which is definitely more dangerous than having structure. Since we can’t really support this many people anymore in a hunter-gathering kind of way, it seems incumbent upon us to find ways to get along, and promote change from within (if that’s your take on it) rather than dismantling the whole kit ‘n kaboodle.

TexasDude's avatar

@Afos22, There are plenty of ways that an officer could stop a potential criminal without taking the one thing that can not be returned.

If you had read my previous post, you would note that we have already been over this rather extensively.

Response moderated (Spam)
john65pennington's avatar

I can honestly say that after 44 years in a police uniform, i have never had to shoot anyone. this may be a world record. many officers go through their whole career without pulling their weapon, must less having to shoot someone. police related shooting are much less than people might expect.

TexasDude's avatar

@john65pennington, police related shooting are much less than people might expect

Exactly. I have a lot of cops in my family and the whole “those evil pigs are killing all these innocent people” is really a load of BS. There are a lot of strict protocols in place for when cops are allowed to use lethal force and the results, even when justified, are miles of red tape. The media and certain anarchic elements of society tend to play up the police killings that do happen to hyperbolic levels.

john65pennington's avatar

Fiddle, thanks. this is like if an officer is involved in a justified shooting, the news media plays it to the night degree. front page healines and breaking news at 10 o’clock. but, take an employee of WalMart that steals a bag of money and you never hear about it. i realize the big difference between a shooting and the theft of a bag of money do not compare. my point was emphasize that the police will make news headlines, where other people do not. thanks for the support. john

rooeytoo's avatar

@laureth – thank you for addressing that statement by @Ben_Dover, it was so far out there, I could barely contain myself, but you fielded it with dignity and diplomacy. I personally would not have been able to. Cheers and GA, also to the @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard and @john65pennington. Are we the only real people in this world????

laureth's avatar

@rooeytoo – no, everyone is real, they just have different ideas sometimes because we’ve all been exposed to different information and experiences, or paid more attention to some things than others. But we’re all real, even the people on the other side (of any issue).

rooeytoo's avatar

@laureth – you coulda fooled me!!!

Ben_Dover's avatar

@laureth Excellent points, especially noting that we have been in need of a police force since our days in the fertile crescent, where we made the major switch from hunter/nomads to a stay-at-home agrarian society. Apparently once we began locking up the food instead of eating what was freely available to anyone who could climb, then people became somewhat disenchanted with this new system and responded in an uncivilized manner.

“But I would stop short of saying that all shootings (even to death) by police are the same as murder.”

As would I. I never said that all p[olice shootings were murder, but rather simply alluded to really only the one incident of police brutality, the murder for hire group of police in the Rampart Division of the LAPD way back in the 80’s.

Of course the answer is to learn to live within society and play ball. There’s not much roaming free and living off the land available anymore. Montana gets brrrrrr cold in the winter.

Justice13's avatar

Count every bullet that has already been, is being shot, and will one day be shot, that’s the highest probable number, you can only go lower from there.

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