Let’s Start With: All Police Shootings Are Civil Rights Violations

Lisa Thinks…
3 min readMay 11, 2021

Want police change? Propose that every policing killing be investigated as a civil rights violation and remove the investigation from local control and prosecutors who often have conflicts of interest.

And doing this would actually be more legitimate than our current system where they are not automatically handled this way.

Why?

Look at the Bill of Rights and the denial of these rights when police kill someone.

6th Amendment:

“The Sixth Amendment provides additional protections to people accused of crimes, such as the right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, and to be informed of criminal charges. Witnesses must face the accused, and the accused is allowed his or her own witnesses and to be represented by a lawyer. “

Guess what? When an officer kills a person, they are denied this.

This would be the basis to call them all civil rights violations — unless it can absolutely be justified.

But there is more:

7th Amendment:

“The Seventh Amendment extends the right to a jury trial in federal civil cases.”

8th Amendment:

“The Eighth Amendment bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.”

And, they are getting the death penalty (which has been considered by some to be cruel and unusual) without a trial — and in cases where they are either not suspected of anything or of doing anything so serious to justify death.

Add to that, the following amendments take on an interesting complexion in the context of police killings:

4th Amendment:

“The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.”

So, yea, police can’t just detain you for “whatever” and, if you resist or run away, they can’t just shoot you down — particularly if the stop was not reasonable. The reasonableness of the stop is sometimes not even considered when looking at a police killing.

5th Amendment:

“The Fifth Amendment provides several protections for people accused of crimes. It states that serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury. A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy) or have property taken away without just compensation. People have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials.)”

So many people get hung up on the second amendment, and to a lesser extent the first, but forget these amendments which are very specific and applicable when police kill citizens.

Just because we have not traditionally handled killings this way, does not mean that we should not look at it this way.

Historically, police also did not kill people as they have been, and even when faced with overwhelming and damning evidence, are not changing and seem unable or unwilling to.

Most departments will be unaffected but places like Vallejo, CA will have to clean up fast.

And it seems that there is a tendency for some officers to be involved in multiple shootings (reference above link to Vallejo) while most are not involved in any. I suspect after one shooting, those officers, who may have a greater tendency to use lethal force, will either choose another line of work or will become more careful moving forward. Either way, the community, and police win. Right now, they are cleared by the department and end up back on the street and the department themselves becomes complicit.

That said, there would be times, of course, when the lethal use of force would be necessary, justified, and unavoidable. In those cases, they could be cleared but I suspect that departments would certainly look for ways to avoid these investigations — even the ones who seem to act with careless impunity now.

Please share and spread the word to add this to our discussion of police reform.

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Lisa Thinks…

I work to understand and explain the world in a very simple way. I have written Mind, Media and Madness, Embrace Life/Embrace Change (by Lisa Snow)