Pass eight provisions to promote accountability and reimagine public safety, including limiting police use of force like in the Police Exercising Absolute Care with Everyone or Peace Act (H.R. 4359)
Approximately 1,000 people are shot and killed by police every year in the United States. The Washington Post has reported on this data in their Fatal Force database, for the last five years. The federal government does not collect this data, despite enactment of the Death in Custody Reporting Act in 2014 requiring this data to be collected, disaggregated and published annually.
Amnesty International’s 2015 Deadly Force Report found that all 50 states and the District of Columbia failed to meet international law and standards for the use of lethal force by police. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have not even enacted laws on use of lethal force by law enforcement officers. Nine other states’ use of force laws authorize police use of deadly force to suppress a riot, compared to a mere eight states that require law enforcement to provide a warning before lethal force is used. Only three states require law enforcement to create no risk to the life of a bystander before using lethal force.
Congress must enact a federal standard to ensure that a person’s right to survive a police encounter does not depend on the color of their skin or where they live. A more restrictive national legal standard is urgently needed to protect our right to be safe, the right to live, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to be equally protected by the law.
When interacting with police everyone has a right to be safe, be free from discrimination, be equally protected before the law and survive the encounter.
Black people represent 12.7% of the US population, but 23% of the total police deaths in 2019. Black people are more than twice as likely to be killed by police compared to white people.
One of a state’s most fundamental duties, with which police officers must comply, is to protect life. International law only allows police officers to use lethal force as a last resort in order to protect themselves or others from an imminent threat of death or serious injury. Furthermore, international law enforcement standards require that force of any kind may be used only when there are no other means available. If the force is unavoidable, it must be no more than is necessary and proportionate.
Police officers are rarely prosecuted and even more rarely convicted for killing people. In a case when a person is killed as a result of a law enforcement officer’s unlawful use of lethal force, the family has the right to an effective remedy. Our current body of laws regarding police use of lethal force makes that incredibly rare. It is common sense to expect police to deescalate a situation by calming things down before resorting to force or deadly force, yet our laws largely do not reflect that. While enacting a use of force standard that would further limit force is very important, allowing law enforcement to be subject to lawsuit for violating people’s rights, and lowering the intent standard so that a prosecutor need not prove law enforcement acted willfully but recklessly would go a long way to secure justice when people’s civil rights and civil liberties are violated by police.
There are several areas that need reform that work in tandem to provide for greater accountability for police misconduct, see below. Amnesty International hopes to see all of these measures adopted in policing reform, though given our research and concomitant work on the state level to limit the use of force we remain steadfast in calling for the passage of any reform to include the PEACE Act (H.R. 4359), which would:
Members of Congress should work to pass meaningful policing reform that includes the following eight priorities, including the Police Exercising Absolute Care with Everyone Act of 2019 or PEACE Act (H.R. 4359):
Together these eight proposals could advance meaningful accountability and address systemic racial bias imbedded in policing.