Police Officer Racism Can Excuse Killing:
We Need Stronger LawsPolice Officer Racism Can Excuse Killing: We Need Stronger Laws


Police officers sometimes kill people when they should not. Racism can strengthen their defense against a criminal prosecution, because fear is a defense and racism can heighten the officer’s fear.

Cops are hired to protect the public. Sometimes, that requires shooting to kill, such as to stop someone from killing other people. Sometimes, that means a white police officer kills a black person who turns out, after the death, not to have been a threat. Sometimes, that leads to a criminal prosecution of the officer for murder.

Often, the cop will present a defense in court at least partly grounded in fear, the officer’s fear of what the now-deceased individual was about to do. That can be a sufficient defense, enough for acquittal. The officer is assigned to protect the public and, in some circumstances, is authorized to kill with intent that the person the officer is shooting should become dead as a result.

Nonetheless, not every possible killing by a peace officer is allowed by law and some may be prosecuted. The officer, as a defendant, has a chance to present a defense in exoneration. Their fear of what the person whom they killed would likely have done that would have threatened someone’s life, either the cop’s or someone else’s, is generally evidence against guilt.

The problem is that if the officer is white and racist and the person who is now dead was of African descent then the officer’s fear is likely to have been greater than if there was no racism. Provided the officer does not admit to any racism, the fear can provide a factual basis for acquitting of the charge.

A similar problem may occur in general public self-defense cases in which the killing of someone who is unknown or hardly known by the defender is allowed in self-defense.

This may require a reform of the law, so that being racist cannot lower the responsibility and accountability. While this is just one of many problems fostered by present-day racism, society has been much harmed by past encouragement of it and we have to keep up the trend of destroying it.