Guns and Policing: Standards to prevent misuse | Police

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This report focuses on what governments can do to improve the effectiveness of policing to help control firearms, without the police themselves resorting to the use of excessive and unjustified force. From an illustrative selection of cases, it argues that adherence to international professional standards in the use of force and firearms must be included in any efforts to improve policing.
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  Guns and Policing Standards to prevent misuse  Contents Summary 2 1. Introduction 5 The problem 5 The standards 7 Implementing these standards 8 2. Policing and Community Safety 9 3. Attacks on Law Enforcers 11 4. Police shooting – was it an absolute last resort? 13 5. Shooting at peaceful assemblies 15 6. Training in the legitimate use of force 17 7. Policing around war zones 19 8. Guns and children 21 9. Gun violence against women 22 10. Targeting ethnic and racial minorities 24 11. Storage and issuance of firearms 25 12. Legitimate police weapons 27 13. Reform of armed policing 29 14. Laws and Regulations 30 15. Reporting and investigation 31 16. Accepting responsibility 33 17. Recommendations 36 Notes 37 Front cover: Cincinnati police point riot guns at demonstrators April 10, 2001. Police fired bean bags and rubber bullets to quell    Guns and Policing , Control Arms Campaign, February, 2004  2 demonstrators who broke windows downtown in a protest over the police shooting of an unarmed black man. © AP Summary This report has been written by Amnesty International for the Control Arms Campaign and is the first in a series of thematic reports to be produced by Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) during the Campaign. It focuses on what governments can do to improve the effectiveness of policing to help control firearms, without the police themselves resorting to the use of excessive and unjustified force. From an illustrative selection of cases, it argues that adherence to international professional standards in the use of force and firearms must be included in any efforts to improve policing. The global proliferation of small arms means that police and other law enforcers are under pressure to counter rising levels of violent gun crime and are expected to confront armed offenders. But in many countries the resources for police equipment and training are insufficient. For this reason, but also sometimes as part of deliberately repressive government policy, police resort to excessive and arbitrary force, or use firearms for unlawful killings and as an instrument of torture and ill-treatment against suspects. Agreed international standards do exist to control the use of force and firearms by the police. They include the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials  and the UN Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials . At their heart is the question of what constitutes legitimate force. Police must sometimes be permitted to use force or lethal force, in order to do their job of keeping communities safe and protecting people from life-threatening attacks. But the force used must not be arbitrary; it must be proportionate, necessary and lawful. And it must only be used in self defence or against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. In order to comply with this essential principle, police must know how to assess rapidly when a threat to life is being made. They need to be extremely well trained in tactical threat assessment so that they can judge in each different context whether a use of force, including lethal force, will be proportionate, necessary and lawful. Too many police forces around the world are trained how to fire a gun  but not how to decide whether it should be fired , or when.    Guns and Policing , Control Arms Campaign, February, 2004 3 And too few governments have incorporated the UN standards in their national legislation, or show any respect for them in practice. Governments and law enforcement agencies need to invest significant resources in improvements to meet the UN standards for the effective control of the use of firearms by the police. Examples in the report include the following: ã   The UN Code of Conduct states that law enforcement agencies “ should be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community as a whole .” Yet repeated testimony from the poorest communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, shows that policing practice discriminates violently against them, with frequently fatal consequences. ã   The UN Basic Principles state that firearms should only be used by police in self-defence or against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Yet in Jamaica, which has the highest rate of police shootings per capita in the world, evidence repeatedly contradicts police claims that they were fired upon first and indicates instead a disturbing pattern of extrajudicial executions. ã   Police training should emphasise human rights and alternatives to the use of firearms, yet the new police force in Timor-Leste, having been provided with brand new guns, does not appear to have been trained in the tactical skills necessary to assess threats or exercise restraint consistent with the UN standards. The report cites positive steps by governments and police moving towards a greater respect for the UN standards, for example: ã   Under previous legislation in South Africa, police were allowed to shoot suspected thieves, drug dealers and fleeing suspects who posed no threat to life, a clear violation of the UN standards. This law has now been amended. ã   In Cambodia, an ambitious project for storage and management of weapons is underway. The challenge to all governments to help control the misuse of arms is urgent. To achieve this, they must invest more resources in professional policing based on the agreed international standards. Only then can governments provide protection to women, men, and children through legitimate security forces that respect human rights, and gain the widespread support from civil society that is needed to curb the flow and use of illicit arms.
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