Following the announcement that the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office will not press charges against the officers who killed Kajieme Powell in August 2014, Amnesty International USA repeated calls for nationwide reforms to laws guiding the use of deadly force by police.
Powell was shot by officers a few seconds after they arrived in response to an emergency call that Powell was displaying agitated behavior and had a knife. The St. Louis Police Department claimed in a press conference shortly thereafter that Powell presented a threat to the officers, a claim called into question after the release of cell phone video of the incident which showed him some distance away with his arms at his sides when he was shot nine times.
Amnesty International USA sent a letter to the Chief of Police at the time calling for a full, impartial and independent investigation of the incident, which occurred almost two weeks after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in nearby Ferguson.
“International law requires that lethal force only be used in self defense in the face of imminent death or serious injury,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Shamefully, not one U.S. state has laws that comply with international standards.
“We urge the Missouri Legislature, and the legislatures in all states, to bring their laws in line with international standards by limiting the use of lethal force solely to those instances in which it is necessary to protect life. We also call on the Department of Justice to gather federal statistics on police shootings – which currently do not exist – and to create a national commission to recommend guidelines on policing issues and accountability mechanisms.”
Amnesty International USA issued a report on lethal force laws in the U.S. earlier this year.