There’s no question about it. This federal bill, if made law, would result in more fallen officers.
U.S. Representative Lacy Clay, a Democrat from Missouri, announced new legislation last Friday that would change the use-of-force standard for federal law enforcement officers.
Clay’s proposal, known as the PEACE Act, would require police officers to use de-escalation techniques before resorting to deadly force. The decision to pull the trigger would be legislated to be a last resort.
This bill, if passed, would also require states to enact similar use-of-force legislation on its state and local level agencies in order to qualify for federal funding for their law enforcement.
“It would set a new standard. And it makes sense,” Clay told reporters at a press conference to introduce the PEACE Act on Aug. 9. “If the rest of the civilized world can abide by these standards, then it helps us get to a place where we need to be in law enforcement. “This new act… changes the way that communities are policed.”
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Clay said:
“Today we continue to strive towards making our country a more perfect union where black lives are respected and valued.”
Clay was joined by a co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-California), at the announcement, held on the fifth anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.
“Ferguson was a dramatic symptom of an illness that is prevalent across our nation in which some officers hired to protect and serve essentially terrorize our communities.”
Clay’s were not the only comments about the Brown case to raise some eyebrows in the law enforcement community.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, both seeking the Democratic nomination to run against President Trump in 2020, tweeted contentious remarks that advanced the false narrative that Michael Brown was murdered by a cop.
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing in Michael Brown’s death by a St. Louis County grand jury and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation under President Barack Obama’s administration.
The federal investigation concluded that the evidence supported Officer Wilson’s claim that he was acting in self-defense and that Brown was attacking him when the officer opened fire, saying that it was reasonable for Wilson to be afraid of Brown in their encounter and thus Wilson could not be prosecuted for fatally shooting the unarmed 18-year-old.
Police generally “use care” when encountering the public, Clay said.
“Most officers “could get behind this legislation because they know there are a few in their ranks that may be reckless … in regard to life.”
Khanna predicted that adopting the standard would reduce violence “and lead to less incidents not just for the victims but also for the police officers.”
But the statistics actually portray a different outcome than the one Khanna envisions. The reality is that laws like the one proposed by Clay and Khanna limit the ability of cops to do their job safely because it emboldens violent criminals, as we have seen over the past few years with an increased number of officers being shot.
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Clay said, however, that he believed that the Brown-Wilson confrontation “could have been defused in another way.”
More than 20 other House members have signed onto the bill. The bill is called the PEACE Act, short for Police Exercising Absolute Care With Everyone. According to a Khanna news release, force under the bill would be a last resort rather than a first resort.
I wonder if any of these congressional members are aware that current laws already carry that stipulation? I challenge them to find a single agency at any level in this nation whose policy is “shoot first, then deploy other measures if killing them doesn’t stop the threat.”
Go ahead Congressman Clay, we will wait…
In the meantime, Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University, reminds us that court rulings have held that “police officers in reasonable fear of their life and safety are permitted to use whatever force they deem necessary.” This legal standard generally is followed by police agencies now, he said.
“They don’t have to make a judgment (such as) will a stun gun be sufficient,” he said. The proposal unveiled Friday would change that, he said.
Because of these legal precedents, as a practical matter, officers appear to be justified to use as much force as reasonably necessary to remove a threat to the officer or others.
Joy also said he that he doesn’t see the bill passing, because of the stand-your-ground laws enacted in in many states that allow average citizens to defend themselves against attacks.
He said if state and local governments adopted the standard envisioned in Clay’s bill, police “would have less options than citizens would have under stand-your-ground.”
Back in March, we introduced you to the story of Sgt. John Chandler. In the fall of 2006, he found himself in a fight for his life. I wonder how this proposed legislation would have changed the outcome of that evening. Here is a portion of that story:
Closing the distance between them, Chandler identified himself as Midland Police. He issued two verbal commands. The first was “show me your hands”. The second was “get on the ground”. The suspect complied with neither.
Turning to face Chandler, who was now 25 to 30 feet away, the suspect paused for just a second, then began sprinting towards the officer. Realizing that the suspect was unarmed and knowing that it was going to become a physical situation, Chandler attempted to holster his weapon to prepare for what he hoped would be a quick fistfight.
Just before he got his pistol back in the holster, the suspect hit him and took him to the ground. Chandler did not remember the hit or going to the ground. He just recalls being on his back and the suspect on top of him, full mount.
The suspect weighed approximately 250 lbs. Chandler, with all his gear weighed around 160. Chandler still had his gun in his right hand, positioned on the ground above his head.
Looking to his right, he saw the suspect with both hands around the barrel of the weapon, trying to wrestle free from Chandler’s grip. Falling back on his training, he knew that he needed to get his left hand on the assailant’s hands, just in case he lost control of his sidearm. He was able to do so.
As the struggle continued, Chandler realized that this was now a deadly force situation. He knew he was going to have to kill the suspect, because it was certainly his intent to disarm and kill Officer Chandler.
The first thought that went through his mind was to try to throw the weapon far enough away that the suspect couldn’t get to it. He quickly realized that was not a viable option, considering the size advantage and leverage that his attacker had on him.
Chandler, still holding the pistol in his hand noticed that the trigger was all the way back. He recognized that his gun was malfunctioning, though he could not identify the source of the problem. The slide may have gone back during the struggle, causing it to double feed a round.
With the suspect still wrapping his hand around the barrel of the pistol, the officer let go with his left hand and racked his pistol two or three times. He knew he had cleared the malfunction when he felt the trigger ride forward and tension take the place of no movement.
Trying to position the gun so it was pointed at his attacker, Chandler pulled the trigger. The round hit the top of the fence behind them.
In recounting this story, the officer stated that firing the first shot did not phase the suspect. Chandler was able to maneuver his weapon closer to the individual straddling him. Once he felt the barrel touch the suspect’s body, he pulled the trigger again.
This time, the round struck the assailant in the face. He collapsed on top of Chandler, who was able to roll the 20-year old off him and onto his stomach, where he was able to get cuffs on him.
Due to the struggle, Chandler’s gear was all over the place. He began searching for his radio. Searching in the 3 foot tall weeds, he was able to find his radio. Getting his earpiece back in, he radioed dispatch saying, “Shots Fired. One down. One shot to the head.”
From the relay of ’10-80’ to the report of ‘shots fired’, the elapsed time was 1 minute, 40 seconds. Side note: to the people like Representative Clay, who believe that officers have the ability to sit and meditate on how to resolve a situation, they don’t. Often, they must make split-second decisions.
I would challenge the Congressman to spend some time on the streets with the men and women who protect it.