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Justification: Law Enforcement

Prevention Of Riot

At common law, deadly force could be used to suppress a riot, after an order to disperse and a warning was given. The Model Penal Code retains the rule (Model Penal Code, sec. 3.07(5)(a)(ii)(2). The better version of the rule is that deadly force may be used only when the riot threatens death or serious bodily harm (Restatement of Torts, 2d ed., sec. 142). The latter rule would limit the use of deadly force to situations proportionate to the threat and comports with the standard in Garner. Although reported cases concerning deadly force in response to riots are rare, one leading case in the United States has adopted the rule from the Restatement of Torts (Burton v. Waller). The cited case arose out of the shooting of students by law enforcement personnel during a riot at a college in Mississippi. The court accepted the standard that deadly force may be used against a riot that threatens life, but held also that the evidence showed that excessive force was used.

International law applies the principles of necessity and proportionality to the suppression of riots as it does to other actions by law enforcement personnel. Article 14 of the UN Basic Principles provides: "In the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawJustification: Law Enforcement - Arrest And Attendant Uses Of Force, Use Of Force In Connection With Arrest Or Detention, Use Of Deadly Force In Connection With An Arrest