Why Do The Police Use Deadly Force?

March 2010
British Journal of Criminology;Mar2010, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p320
Academic Journal
This paper attempts to answer the question: why do the police use deadly force in a democratic country? Police shootings in India are better known as encounters, a term that refers to a specific type of police contact—a spontaneous, unplanned ‘shoot-out’ between the police and alleged criminals, in which the criminal is usually killed, with few or no police injuries. The police use of deadly force remains largely unquestioned or unaccountable. This paper explores the wider structural and systemic factors that create conditions in which killing ‘hardened’ criminals seems to be the last resort for the police to gain some control in the fight against crime. Wider cultural and specifically police sub-cultural factors that make police killing of alleged criminals both feasible and acceptable in a democratic country are discussed. Based on a qualitative study of Mumbai police officers’ narratives accounting for use of deadly force, the paper draws upon wider policing literature in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, South Africa and certain Latin American countries to explain why this form of police violence occurs.


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