Report: Police use of lethal force in all U.S. states breaks international law

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In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International said police use lethal force in violation of international law in every single U.S. state, and Washington D.C. The report also found that black Americans, who make up 13.2 percent of the population, constitute 27.6 percent of Americans killed by police. And that data is likely incomplete—there is no official record of how many people are killed by police.

Amnesty added that nine states and D.C. don't even have laws on the use of lethal force by members of law enforcement, and that 13 states have laws that are unconstitutional. From the report:

The use of lethal force by law enforcement officers raises serious human rights concerns… The United States has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these human rights and has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which explicitly protects these rights.


According to Amnesty, there's a direct link between police use of lethal force and the large amount of guns in the U.S.:

The majority of deaths at the hands of police are the result of an officer using a firearm. The pervasiveness of firearms among the general population in the US means that officers have to be prepared for the worst when confronting a suspect. An unexpected movement can be mistaken as someone reaching for a firearm even if the suspect is unarmed.

This, of course, doesn't justify the number of bullets used in many of the recent cases of fatal police violence. The fact that Michael Brown was shot six times, says Amnesty, signals both recklessness and an intention to kill on the part of the officer.

According to the report, only two states—Georgia and Tennessee—note in statutes that officers will receive training on when to use lethal force.


The report comes as the U.S. is reeling from the deaths of nine black churchgoers, allegedly killed in a shooting rampage by a young, white man named Dylann Roof. Roof was apprehended by police on Thursday, without use of force, in South Carolina. That state has no rules on police use of lethal force, per the report.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.