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Unpublished Paper
When Individuals Seek Death at the Hands of the Police: Analyzing the Legal and Policy Implications of Suicide-by-Cop and Why Police Officers Should Use Nonlethal Force in Dealing with Suicidal Suspects. Golden Gate University Law Review (forthcoming 2011).
ExpressO (2011)
  • Rahi Azizi, University of California, Berkeley
Abstract
ABSTRACT The term “suicide-by-cop” refers to incidents in which a suicidal person intentionally goads the police into killing him because he is unwilling to take his own life. Many journalists have written newspaper articles on suicide-by-cop, but legal literature on this unique category of police killings remains scarce. This article hopes to change that. Part of my purpose is to examine suicide-by-cop from a sociological standpoint and determine its prevalence. But my purpose does not stop there. I make two principle arguments. First, suicide-by-cop poses a tangible threat of litigation to police departments. Because suicide-by-cop incidents can form the basis for a lawsuit against the police under federal law (Section 1983 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act), law enforcement agencies should train officers more adequately on the use of nonlethal force in such situations. Second, various policy considerations provide a compelling reason for police departments to better address suicide-by-cop. The individuals who commit suicide-by-cop tend to be young, destitute, and addicted to drugs. They all have mental health issues, and many only wish to harm themselves. Ultimately, killing these individuals does not serve a significant law enforcement aim. Therefore, the police should approach suicide-by-cop situations with an eye toward suicide intervention. Law enforcement agencies should also adopt measures to track the frequency of suicide-by-cop incidents and educate police officers on common characteristics that suicide-by-cop victims share (so that officers can more readily identify attempts at suicide-by-cop and handle them accordingly). Suicide-by-cop poses major legal and policy implications that affect lower income communities and law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Hopefully, this article can call attention to this tragic phenomenon and the ways in which we can limit its occurrence.
Disciplines
Publication Date
2011
Citation Information
Rahi Azizi. "When Individuals Seek Death at the Hands of the Police: Analyzing the Legal and Policy Implications of Suicide-by-Cop and Why Police Officers Should Use Nonlethal Force in Dealing with Suicidal Suspects. Golden Gate University Law Review (forthcoming 2011)." ExpressO (2011)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rahi_azizi/8/