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ISBN: 0-919584-63-2

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Police Use of Deadly Force: Canadian Perspectives

Duncan Chappell

Linda P. Graham

ISBN: 0-919584-63-2

Price: CAN $9.00

Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches

Pages: xvii + 195

? 1985 Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto

All Rights Reserved

This monograph examines an important and, on occasions, controversial subject: the use by

Canadian police of deadly force. Although the number of citizens killed each year by police in

Canada is small when compared with countries like the United States, any use by law

enforcement officers of fatal force merits study.

The monograph reviews the limited official information available in Canada about police

shootings and also considers in some detail the provisions of the criminal and civil law

regarding this aspect of police power. A comprehensive analysis is presented of a number of

cases of police shooting deaths in British Columbia between 1970 and 1982. Based on this

analysis, and also drawing upon the results of comparative research conducted largely in the

United States, the authors make a series of recommendations concerning the legal,

administrative and allied controls which should apply to the police use of deadly force in


This monograph will be of interest not only to those secifically concerned with policing but also to

law reformers, criminologists, political scientists, sociologists, and other social scientists.


Last updated

September 14, 1998

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Deadly Force 10/20/00

Binder, Arnold and Lorie Fridell. 1984. “Lethal Force as a Police Response.” Criminal Justice Abstracts


Blumberg, Mark. 1993. “Controlling Police Use of Deadly Force: Assessing Two Decades of Progress.” Pp.

469-492 in Critical Issues in Policing., edited by Roger G. Dunham and Geoffrey P. Alpert. Prospect Heights, IL:

Waveland Press.

Cloninger, Dale O. 1991. “Lethal Police Response as a Crime Deterrent.” American Journal of Economics and

Sociology 50:59-69.

Cullen, Francis T., Liqun Cao, James Frank, Robert H. Langworthy, Sandra Lee Browning, Renee Kopache, and

Thomas J. Stevenson. 1996. “”Stop or I?ll Shoot”: Racial Differences in Support for Police Use of Deadly Force.”

American Behavioral Scientist 39:449-460.

Epstein, Jayson. 1971. “The Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?” New Yorker 46:45-77.

Geller, William A. 1982. “Deadly Force: What We Know.” Journal of Police Science and Administration.


Geller, William A. and Michael S. Scott. 1992. Deadly Force: What We Know – A Practitioner’s Desk Reference on

Police-Involved Shootings. Washington, D. C.: Police Executive Research Forum.

Herbert, Steve. 1995. “The Trials of Laurence Powell: Law, Space, and a `Big Time Use of Force.” Environment

and Planning D; Society and Space 13:185-199.

Jacobs, David and David Britt. 1979. “Inequality and Police Use of Deadly Force.” Social Problems 26:403-412.

Langworthy, Robert. 1986. “Police Shooting and Criminal Homicide: The Temporal Relationship.” Journal of

Quantitataive Criminology 2:377-388.

Mays, C. Larry and William A. Taggart. 1985. “Deadly Force as a Policy Problem in Local Law Enforcement: Do

Administrative Practices Make a Difference.” Policy Studies Review 5:309-318.

Nielsen, Eric 1983. “Policy on the Police Use of Deadly Force: A Cross-sectional Analysis.” Journal of Police

Science and Administration 11:104-108.

Sherman, Lawrence W. 1980b. “Execution Without Trial: Police Homicide and the Constitution.” Vanderbilt Law

Review 33:71-100.

_____. 1983. “Reducing Police Gun Use: Critical Events, Administrative Policy, and Organizational Change.” Pp.

98-125 in Control in the Police Organization, edited by

Maurice Punch. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Sherman, Lawrence W. and Ellen G. Bohr. 1986. Citizens Killed by Big City Police, 1970-1984. Washington DC:

Crime Control Institute.

Sorensen, Jonathan R., James W. Marquart and Deon E. Brock. 1993. “Factors Related to Killings of Felons by

Police Officers: A Test of the Community Violence and Conflict Hypotheses.” Justice Quarterly 10:417-440.

Sparger, Jerry R. and David J. Giacopassi. 1992. “Memphis Revisited: A Reexamination of Police Shootings after

the Garner Decision.” Justice Quarterly 9:211-225.

Tennenbaum, Abraham N. 1984. “The Influence of the Garner Decision on Police Use of Deadly Force.” Journal of

Criminal Law and Criminology 85:241-260.

Waegel, William B. 1984a. “How Police Justify the Use of Deadly Force.” Social Problems 32:144-155.

______. 1984b. “The Use of Lethal Force by Police: The Effect of Statutory Change.” Crime and Delinquency


Oct. 9, 1996

“Suicide by Cop”


The split second it takes for a cop to squeeze a trigger is perhaps the most widely seen and least understood event of our time. The image is conjured up

endlessly on TV and in movies; each real-life incident is covered sensationally by some media.

A new study at Simon Fraser University adds significantly to understanding what really happens and what should be done. It examines the phenomenon of

victim-precipitated homicide, also known as “suicide by cop.” And it makes recommendations regarding firearms and training.

The research — Aspects of Police Use of Deadly Force in British Columbia: The Phenomenon of Victim-Precipitated Homicide — was conducted by Rick

Parent, a 17-year veteran of the Delta Police Department, for an MA thesis in criminology. He is currently an instructor in the Police Academy at the Justice

Institute of B.C. and is studying for a PhD at SFU.

The thesis analyses 58 documented incidents in B.C., from 1980 to 1994, in which police officers were confronted by a potentially lethal threat. In 27 of

these incidents, police responded by discharging their firearms and killing a total of 28 people. Roughly half of these cases are victim-precipitated homicide.

In the remaining 31 cases, police responded with less-than-lethal-force.

“The underlying reasons and causes for police use of deadly force and potentially deadly force were studied,” explains Parent, who was partly motivated by

personal involvement in such an incident six years ago.

“I examined incidents of lethal threats which at times resulted in victim-precipitated homicides,” he says. “In these cases police were confronted in a

calculated and deliberate manner, by people who were suffering from one, or a combination of: suicidal tendencies, mental illness, and substance abuse.”

“At times, victims cause or contribute to a police shooting by intentionally or unintentionally provoking police,” he adds. “In many cases, suicidal

individuals have engaged in life-threatening behavior in order to force the police to kill them.”

Parent examined police investigations, coroner’s inquests and B.C. Police Commission data involving municipal and RCMP personnel.

Most importantly, he interviewed 34 police officers.

“I focused on their perception of how the perceived lethal threat unfolded before their eyes,” he explains. “Secondly, I asked that, as they faced this, what

course of action did they take and why?”

Included in the study’s framework were psychological, physiological, physical and emotional issues relating to critical incident stress and post-shooting

effects. These are traditionally avoided during police investigations and in court, and go beyond the scope of typical police and coroner reports.

“These incidents are tragic and emotionally traumatic experiences for police officers,” he reports. “There is real devastation which can affect the officer and

his family along with a myriad of other problems which are too often ignored. In the aftermath, police officers are frequently “victims” of the shooting

process and that’s vastly different from the common and casual, macho displays in TV and movies.”

Parent stresses that police use of deadly force is a rare occurrence in B.C., despite highly publicized recent incidents. As well, in the racially and culturally

mixed province, he could find no evidence that these incidents were racially motivated.

He strongly advocates finding further alternatives to traditional firearms, recognizing that in some instances the police are faced with no alternatives but to

use deadly force.

“Devices such as pepper spray, net guns, glue guns, Taser guns — which discharge electric probes — and grappling poles/shields have been utilized in other

countries and their use should be considered in B.C., “he explains.

“Also, the training of police must continue to emphasize non-violent strategies in dealing with individuals who are suicidal, intoxicated and/or mentally ill,”

he concludes.

CONTACT: Note: Rick Parent is very busy and requests that interviews be

arranged through SFU’s media/pr office. Thesis copies have been sent to police departments throughout B.C. and are available.

Bruce Mason, media/pr, 291-3035, photo available

Media/pr’s web site:

[ Search | 1996 News Index | Press Releases | Media & PR | SF News | SFU ]

? Simon Fraser University, Media and Public Relations


By Rob Ryan

Last week there were two letters in Salisbury’s weekly newspaper from two individuals with extremely different

perspectives. One spreads fear of police and all the awful things he perceives they do. The other, a new voice from Ocean

City, spreads the fear of Salisbury and drugs in order to gain support for his fellow police officers. I am tired of both


Fear mongering is an old tool to sway public opinion. The revolutionaries need people to be afraid of the “King?s” troops

in order to take action against the “King”. Conversely the “King” needs an enemy the population fears. This way, they

will support the “King” and provide tax money which will be used to suppress any particular group currently out of favor.

It is a constant struggle between the two groups, which often gets out of balance. The swing of the power pendulum is as

old as mankind.

You might ask where are we today and where are we going tomorrow? That can be hard to tell sometimes; different

attitudes will cloud opinions. As an engineer, I try to discount personal biases and evaluate facts from a long-term


The facts about crime is that we currently live in a time when our prison population is at an all-time high. We have the

highest incarceration rate in the world; Wall Street investments in prison industries are a good investment; we lock up

blacks at incredible rates; Wicomico county is funding a variety of new or expanding detention centers; and Salisbury’s

police force has nearly reached 40 percent of the general tax fund compared to 18 percent historically.

One might counter and say the crime rates has taken some small dips lately, but they are still huge, from a historical


One month ago there was gunfire at a fast-food restaurant in Salisbury that resulted in considerable media coverage. I have

no insider information on the events; I was not a witness; I will not condemn our police force; nor defend the individuals

in the vehicle, but there is one thing I know about this incident that I am certain is true.

The two police officers were deadly afraid of the men in the car, as was true of the two men in custody. It is a powerful

statement of where we are today that our police are as afraid of our minority citizens as they are of the police.

I am tired of fear and listening to those who promote it. Perhaps, just maybe our current model of crime and crime control

is not working. It is time to re-evaluate what we are doing; why we are doing it; and where we are going.

Rob Ryan

Rob Ryan lives in Salisbury, Maryland

?July 25, 1999 Rob Ryan All Rights Reserved

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