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Crime File: Deadly Force

NCJ Number
Date Published
0 pages
Publication Series
This videotape, one of the 'Crime File' series, considers the rationales and consequences of various police policies on the use of deadly force, using an interview panel and tape segments pertaining to the New York City Police Department's policy and training on the use of deadly force as well as the Memphis Police Department's (Tennessee) policy in this area.
The segment on the New York City Police Department's training in the use of deadly force portrays one of the simulations (which are based on actual incidents) designed to help officers decide when and when not to use their weapons. Officers are trained to conform to departmental policy, which is to fire only at armed persons endangering others. Interviews with officers and trainers point up the importance of training officers in decisionmaking before they are confronted by situations requiring split-second life and death decisions. The segment on the Memphis Police Department examines an incident where an unarmed, fleeing boy suspected of a property crime was killed by an officer (Tennessee law permits shooting a fleeing suspect when the officer has probable cause to believe he has committed a felony). Interviews with the involved officer and a county prosecutor present their arguments in support of the policy. The panel interviewed consists of James Fyfe, American University School of Justice; Chief Neil Behan, Baltimore County Police Department; and Dick Hickman, Dallas Police Administration. Fyfe notes the trend toward more restrictive policies in the police use of deadly force, without any attendant increase in shootings of police officers. Fyfe also considers issues of racial discrimination in police shootings. Hickman notes that although Texas law permits police to shoot a fleeing felon, the policy of the Dallas Police Department is only to fire at an armed person threatening a person's life. Hickman argues against this policy as removing a deterrent to crime. Behan is supportive of his department's policy of not firing unless the officer has probable cause to believe there is an immediate threat to life.

Date Published: January 1, 1985