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Cops and lethal force

Based on the Sunday Times/PI

Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 10:31:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: robert n lyman <rlyman@u.washington.edu>
To: opinion@seattletimes.com, editpage@seattle-pi.com
Subject: Cops and lethal force

I would like to correct and dangerous and shocking error that is becoming more widespread.

In your Sunday edition, Sgt. Don Ellis of the King County Sheriff's office is quoted, in part, and saying, "Society has given me the authority to kill people if that's what needs to be done."

This is dead WRONG. I cannot emphasize enough how serious Sgt. Ellis' error is.

To begin with, the police are not empowered to summarily execute the lawless "if that's what needs to be done." They may kill ONLY if innocent life in endangered, and if no other option exists to protect the innocent.

But this right--the right to self-defense and defense of others--is most certainly NOT a right reserved for the police. It is one that any human being, anywhere on earth, may exercise. It is not a right that can ever be limited or taken by the government. Any woman may legitimately kill a rapist if she can escape him no other way. Any man may kill to protect his own life. Any parent may kill to save his or her children from harm. One does not need a badge to have the right to kill defensively. Certainly the state may wish to see proof that the killing was necessary, but it may not legitimately require that citizens submit to violence on pain of imprisonment.

Police carry guns not because they have special privileges regarding the right to self-defense, but rather because their job requires them to run toward danger as the rest of us run away. While an ordinary citizen may flee a mugger and avoid the necessity of killing him, the police are required to approach and apprehend dangerous people every day. Indeed, according to the justifiable homicide statutes, the police have LESS authority to use deadly force in Washington than do ordinary people defending themselves, their families, and their property.

Sgt. Ellis' error is even more shocking in that it comes from a man who may one day find himself called to the scene of a shooting, and confronted with an innocent citizen who has committed justifiable homicide. Will he arrest that person, saying, "You don't have the right to self-defense, only the police can do that"?

The right of self-defense is linked to the basic human rights of life and liberty. Sgt. Ellis and others who like him apparently believe:

1) Self-defense is a privilege to be restricted by the state and

2) Only the police have this privilege. This belief is dangerous and wrong.

What do they teach them at the academy, anyway?

Robert Lyman

Seattle, WA 98117
(206)xxx-xxxx(h)


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