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Attempting to take an officer's weapon can warrant deadly force

By Heather Hourigan, Reporter, heather.hourigan@kmiz.com
Published On: Aug 14 2014 06:03:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 14 2014 07:45:19 PM CDT

The use of excessive force by a police officer has always been a controversial topic and the shooing of Michael Brown in Ferguson has sparked the debate again.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -

The use of excessive force by a police officer has always been a controversial topic and the shooing of Michael Brown in Ferguson has sparked the debate again.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice found police kill one person everyday in the United States, but another study shows more officers are dying on the job.  

On Thursday, ABC 17 News looked into guidelines about when police typically use force.

Each police department may adopt its own guidelines for its jurisdiction.

Sometimes what a police department decides is governed by the local judicial system where the local prosecutors and judges say they will or will not prosecute this kind of force.

In Columbia, along with the entire state of Missouri, police officers may use deadly force if the officer's life is in jeopardy or the life of someone else is.

Most departments have specific circumstances spelt out in their guidelines.

While Columbia Police Department's public information officer told ABC 17 News to make a sunshine request to get a written copy of the guidelines, ABC 17 News talked with CPD's Union Rep. on Thursday.

"In the case of the reports from Ferguson, the law enforcement community have indicated that Michael Brown allegedly tried to take the officers handgun away from him. When you attempt to take a handgun from a law enforcement officer that by definition is use of deadly force." said Dale Roberts.

In Missouri, if someone is using deadly force on an officer, then the officer's deadly force is acceptable.

"The reaction to a gun grab is immediate elevation to use deadly force in your own defense," said Roberts.

"The question really becomes under certain circumstances the police can use deadly force but the officer has to have probably cause to believe the person who is fleeing is a danger to the officer or other people." said Rodney Uphoff, an Elwood Thomas Missouri Endowed Professor of Law.

Uphoff, a lawyer and professor at MU's law school is referring to a supreme court case, Tennessee vs. Garner from 1985.

An unarmed teenager was killed by a police officer.

The officer's argument was the use of deadly force was used to stop the suspect from feeling.

However, that was ruled to be unreasonable use of force.

"It may be that the police officer did act appropriately in trying to subdue somebody if in fact the suspect or the person who was ultimately killed that person struggled and had threatened to use the gun in some manner against the officer," said Uphoff.

In Columbia, police officers should use only the amount of force necessary to control an incident, effect an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm or death.

The use of body cameras is considered a solution to help provide perspective in these types of cases.

In July, the Columbia Police Department announced they are the first department in Missouri making all of their officers wear these cameras.

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