Law enforcement use of deadly force: In-depth analysis

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(INTELLIHUB) — These days we hear a lot about law enforcement personnel and the use of unjustified force. There are a lot of variables involved, so who is in the right in these cases?

For starters, each scenario must be examined on a case-by-case basis. That includes the history and profiles of the individuals involved.

A number of names come to mind when force, questionable or otherwise, has been used. LaVoy FinicumEric Garner and Michael Brown are probably some of the most well-known cases in point.

In each of these circumstances, different factors need to be examined.


Did any of the civilian subjects have a criminal record, a record of violent crime or violence? Were they armed during the utilization of force against them and did they pose an immediate threat to anyone — either law enforcement or others in the immediate vicinity during their final moments?

Were they engaged in criminal activity or did they show intent to engage in criminal activity while they were in contact with law enforcement personnel?

Was either their speech or body language suggestive of compliance, submission, or aggression?

On the flip-side, did the law enforcement officer or officers in contact with any hypothetically deceased or injured subjects have a history of aggression, citizen complaints, drawing their weapons, or discharge of their weapons in the line of duty?

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Were they familiar with the neighborhood(s) they worked, did they have prior contact with the hypothetical subject(s), or have knowledge of the subject’s past, including criminal history?

These are just some of the questions which should be asked.

Now for the record, this is my opinion and not the viewpoint of Intellihub, I am of the belief that Eric Garner, LaVoy Finicum, and Michael Brown occupy different positions on the spectrum.
Rose Colored Photo/Flickr

It is impossible without engaging in a 20-plus page thesis to discuss each case thoroughly, but there are some major differences in each scenario.

Eric Garner was unarmed, was not engaged in violent crime, and was allegedly supposed to be a good-natured individual — as was LaVoy Finicum.

Now neither Eric Garner nor Michael Brown was armed, but Michael Brown had a history of violence and was filmed engaging in violence and theft shortly before his demise. He was not exactly known for being the submissive type and was quite a big fellow, as was Eric Garner. While Michael Brown most likely did fail to comply with orders, Eric Brown did resist arrest.

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Both Eric Garner and LaVoy Finicum were surrounded by well-armed law enforcement personnel, and both were captured on video during their final moments. Michael Brown’s final moments were not captured on video.

All three individuals were known to law enforcement, albeit for different reasons.

Michael Brown had just committed theft and utilized his refrigerator-sized body as a potentially deadly weapon, and while the officer may not have known that Brown had just engaged in this crime, Michael Brown had no way of knowing that the officer didn’t know. He most likely thought he was being stopped (walking down the middle of the street) for the theft of a box of cigars – a.k.a. blunt wrappers.

LaVoy Finicum came off as a rather diminutive, grandfatherly type of individual. However, I also happen to think that the good ‘ole boy was tough as steel and probably stubborn as hell.

Eric Garner came across as a pudding-soft obese kind of a guy, and his underlying health problems and sudden death probably allude to the fact that he was most likely winded after climbing one flight of stairs, and certainly wasn’t up for a fight. It seems like in his case, that a good dose of pepper spray would have sufficed.

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It would be hard to sit as either a judge or jury on these cases. So who do we give the benefit of the doubt to?

Eric Garner’s case seems to be the most transparent. He had a history of selling cigarettes illegally, he wasn’t a violent person, he wasn’t armed and had actually just broken up a fight. He was also well-known to both the police and locals and was swarmed by quite a few armed law enforcement officers.

The Michael Brown case seems to fall at the other end of the spectrum. He had a history of violence, had just robbed a store, beaten the much smaller employee, and was arrogantly and perhaps belligerently strolling down the middle of the road. In my opinion — and remember that this is my opinion, I see him as the least likely in this brief case study of three to raise his hands and say “don’t shoot.”

Why drop a perfectly good box of blunt wrappers to the ground when you can use one hand to flip off the law enforcement officer who happens to weigh a good 100 pounds less than you.

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The LaVoy Finicum case is probably the most difficult to determine, and that may be material for another article. While we do not know for certain if he was armed at the moment he snow-banked the truck, he appeared in an interview with a gun.

Another point is this; while the concept or the cause of standing up to BLM might appear to be “just” to some, LaVoy and crew were occupying federally-owned property hundreds if not a thousand plus miles from home.

Now whether one is in the restroom, on a wildlife reservation, or in a federal building in the middle of the city, being in the possession of a firearm is not a good idea. If the same group chose an urban setting the entire population would view the scene in a different and much more negative light.

I think that Michael Brown probably had it coming to him, there are not enough facts available to the public to make a solid decision on LaVoy Finicum and what happened to Eric Garner seems like it crossed the boundary of a by-the-books apprehension and arrest.

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