The use of lethal force by law enforcement has come under strict scrutiny in recent years, with the U.S. Department of Justice issuing guidelines aimed at saving lives.
The U.S. Supreme Court held in the 1985 case, Tennessee v. Garner, that the Fourth Amendment afforded police officers to use deadly force under certain circumstances. The high court’s position that lethal force was lawful was reaffirmed in its1989 decision Graham v. Connor. Through these decisions and recent policies by the Department of Justice, the scope of lethal force has been narrowed.
Firearm use is sometimes replaced with tasers and other tools to bring aggressive offenders under control. One of the key ways to minimize the need for such actions involves improving officer safety. The protections gained from lightweight riot gear may save the lives of civilians and officers alike.
When Does the Department of Justice Allow Lethal Force?
In May, 2022, the Department of Justice revised federal lethal force policies. A memorandum signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick noted that the Fourth Amendment supports the use of deadly force, as articulated in Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner. But the scope would be reduced going forward, based on the 2020 National Consensus Policy on Use of Force generated after input from major law enforcement agencies. The policy effectively eliminates the so-called “fleeing felon” use of lethal force and hones others down to the following.
- Firearms may not be discharged solely to disable moving vehicles. Specifically, firearms may not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless: (1) a person in the vehicle is threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle; or (2) the vehicle is operated in a manner that threatens to cause death or serious physical injury to the officer or others, and no other objectively reasonable means of defense appear to exist.
- If feasible and if to do so would not increase the danger to the officer or others, a verbal warning to submit to the authority of the officer shall be given prior to the use of deadly force.
- Officers will be trained in alternative methods and tactics for handling resisting subjects, which must be used when the use of deadly force is not authorized by this policy.
Before the recent guidance, lethal force was considered lawful when a violent criminal or suspect fled — armed or not — based on the theory the general public was in harm’s way. The update, adopted by the FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshals, and Bureau of Prisons, among others, also emphasizes a field officer’s risk. Until the officer reasonably fears for their life or bodily harm, deadly force is not an option. This means the decision-making process has effectively been altered.
How Does Lightweight Riot Gear Affect Lethal Force Decisions?
It’s important to understand that law enforcement professionals typically do everything in their power to restore order or bring a violent criminal to justice without using lethal force. De-escalation techniques are part of an officer’s training, and no one wants loss of life to occur. Unfortunately, some of the worst offenders are bent on violence and murder.
The decision-making margin is increasingly slim regarding the use of deadly force, primarily driven by the bad actor. But outfitting officers with next-generation protective suits can make a difference in the following ways.
- Head Gear: Head protection reduces the risk of injury from attackers. It can withstand a hard impact and may even prompt an officer to use less deadly means, potentially sparing a suspect’s life.
- Body Armor: Lightweight riot suits are a go-to option for departments across the country. The stab-resistant padding and plates can mitigate the danger presented by sharp objects. An officer’s life could be saved by wearing a lightweight riot suit.
Integrating effective Haven Gear riot suits reduces the risk to officers and expands their options. Riot gear is helping to fulfill the recent Department of Justice mandate that states the following.
“It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life. Officers may use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively gain control of an incident while protecting the safety of the officer and others,” a DOJ memo states.
Use Haven Gear For Next Gen Riot Gear
Haven Gear produces industry-leading riot suits and accessories for frontline officers. The next-generation technologies used to create protective police equipment are a factor in dangerous encounters that may determine whether lethal force is needed. For more information, visit Haven Gear.