On August 9, 2014, an unarmed black teenager was shot to death by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Just over a year later, the dust has yet to settle. Since that fateful afternoon, tensions between law enforcement and segments of American society seem to have reached a critical mass. Far, far too many tragedies have ensued. The wildfire that is social media has led to a polarization and politicization of what unfortunately seem to have become competing movements. “Black Lives Matter” and “Police Lives Matter” have somehow become competing socio-political battle cries. While most rational observers would posit that these movements may, indeed should, exist in harmony, the fact that battle lines have formed, figuratively and literally in places like Ferguson and Baltimore illuminates the premise this Note seeks to explore: a perception of injustice is as emboldening as a substantive injustice. This Note takes up a source of that “perception of injustice” by looking to the law governing police use of deadly force generally, and civil liability for excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 specifically. The so called “objective reasonableness” standard for evaluating police use of force, which grew out of the foundational cases Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor, is explored. This analysis takes up the deficiencies of a standard that affords great deference to police judgment in deadly force cases and explicitly rejects that an officer’s subjective motivations are relevant to an examination of whether a particular use of deadly force is “objectively reasonable.” Finally, the Note explores an alternative substantive due process standard, initially posited by Judge Henry Friendly, for reviewing police use of deadly force. Judge Friendly’s model considers several factors explicitly excluded under the objective reasonableness standard and seeks to balance law enforcement’s fundamental interest in effective crime control and officer safety with the individual’s fundamental interest in his or her own life. By changing the lens with which deadly force cases are reviewed and giving more weight to the sanctity of human life, this Note advocates for a standard of review of police use of deadly force that places the value of all human life at the forefront.
Kyle J. Jacob,
From Garner to Graham and Beyond: Police Liability for Use of Deadly Force — Ferguson Case Study,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol91/iss1/13