JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri governor Jay Nixon called for reforms to “foster healing and hope” following the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson and the ensuing protests. Among the changes he sought was for the state statute governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement to be compliant with constitutional requirements and U. S. Supreme Court precedent.
Amnesty International USA has emphasized that deadly force should only be used to preserve life. The Missouri statute as it currently stands allows for a much broader set of circumstances where deadly force is allowed. For example, a police officer may be justified in using deadly force if it is believed that a person to be arrested has committed or attempted to commit a felony.
“It is encouraging to hear that the governor recognizes that the Missouri statute regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement is badly in need of reform,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “We urge the Missouri Legislature to bring the law in line with international standards by limiting the use of lethal force solely to those instances in which it is necessary to protect life. All other states should in turn review their lethal force statutes and ensure that police departments publish regular statistics on the number of people shot and killed or injured by police officers.”
“Police absolutely have the right to protect themselves and a duty to protect the safety of the public, but the use of deadly force must be treated as a last resort, reserved only for extreme circumstances in which it is strictly unavoidable to protect life.”
Governor Nixon also called for a sustained effort to address the broader, systemic issues presented by the events in Ferguson, including “policies that foster racial understanding and compassion,” and law enforcement recruitment and training that “reflects the diversity of the community it serves.”
Amnesty International USA’s report on human rights abuses in Ferguson can be found at: www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/onthestreetsofamericaamnestyinternational.pdf