Officer-involved shootings are increasing over the years. Although the reasons may vary, most of these confrontations never end well for at least one of the involved parties. The rising figure for shootings makes us question why these things happen and what the consequences are for either party.

Why Do Officer-Involved Shootings Happen?

In countries where people are allowed to acquire and own personal guns, violence is ever-present. As police officers deal with unsafe situations every day, they’re bound to encounter any event that will pressure them to use force. These law enforcers often deal with people who are threats to the public and thus need careful handling.

Most shootings start when a suspect endangers the lives of others, including the officers. As authorized by the law, they’re allowed to use their guns if the suspect is violent and uncontrollable, or if the whole situation gets out of hand. Examples of these situations are escape attempts by suspects, shooting at officers, and suspects drawing out other harmful objects at officers.

How are Shootings Considered Legal?

In the United States, it’s constitutional for police officers to shoot to protect their lives and the lives of innocent people. It means that once the suspect starts to pose a threat, they are lawfully allowed to shoot.

Here is another situation wherein police officers are allowed to shoot: when the suspect is trying to escape. This kind of situation, however, requires the officer to have probable cause before shooting a suspect.

These are the only two situations wherein an officer is legally allowed to shoot. Generally, an officer is allowed to shoot once a threat is apparent.  Outside these circumstances, shootings are no longer constitutional. These conditions were analyzed and formulated from the Supreme-Court rulings of Tennessee v. Garner & Graham v. Connor cases in the 1980s.

Effect of Rising Numbers in Probable Unlawful Shootings

Even with the formulation of guidelines for officers who need to use their guns against suspects, the number of shootings where there is no immediate threat is still increasing. Most of these shootings are subjects of debate over the grounds of whether or not the suspects indeed posed a threat to the officers and other people.

Unfortunately, there are still gaps in the constitution because the word “threat” have different meanings (subjective) for each party. These gaps resulted in states like Tennessee and Delaware ordering their officers to use guns only if all available means to restrain the suspect have been exhausted.

Procedures for Officer-Involved Deaths

If a person dies due to the force exerted by the police, an investigation will immediately commence. The evidence presented to the prosecutor will be compared against the standards that permit an officer to use force in detaining a suspect. Once the evidence shows that force was unnecessary, the prosecutor will figure out what kind of crime has been committed and whether or not the proof on-hand is sufficient.

In addition to the investigation done by the local prosecutor, an internal investigation will also be carried out by the local police department. An officer can either be charged, depending on the crime committed, or fired, depending on the policy he violated.

There are several things to consider when evaluating officer-involved-shootings. However, it all boils down to whether or not the shooting was legal or allowed by the constitution.