Cops and lethal force
Based on the Sunday Times/PI
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 10:31:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: robert n lyman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
Seattle, WA 98117
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