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Report: Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States

Amnesty International Report

June 18, 2015


Since the United States does not count how many people are killed by law enforcement officers, no one knows exactly how many lives are lost each year. However, according to the limited data available, African Americans are disproportionately impacted by police killings. This Amnesty International report found that contrary to international law and standards, U.S. domestic legislation does not require that the use of lethal force may only be used as a last resort. All 50 states and the District of Columbia fail to comply with international standards on police use of lethal force, according to the report. The study also finds that 13 US states fall beneath even lower legal standards set by US constitutional law and that nine states currently have no laws on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials at all.


With the release of their report, Amnesty International is calling for the Department of Justice to collect and publish statistics and data on police shootings as well as a new approach to use of force, accountability mechanisms, and police officer training in alternatives such as persuasion, negotiation and mediation. The report urges Congress to take legislative action on the issue and also calls for state legislatures to introduce and amend statutes that authorize the use of lethal force to ensure that they are in line with international standards. 


This report is primarily based on a state-by-state legislative survey of use of lethal force statutes within the United States. Amnesty International also looked at particularly relevant US Supreme Court and federal court cases, Department of Justice Guidelines on the Use of Force, as well as media reports related to police use of lethal force, and available statistical data including data collected by the Center for Disease Control and the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

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