Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985). Free Essay

Published: 2023-08-17
Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985). Free Essay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Criminal law Court system Police brutality Ethical dilemma
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 877 words
8 min read

In the history of law enforcement, the use of force has always been a controversial issue. While the police are lawfully allowed to use any means necessary to arrest an individual for public well-being, some officers knowingly or unknowingly abuse this power. A Tennessee statute holds that if a criminal suspect flees or forcefully resists arrest after notice from a police officer, the officer can employ any means necessary to affect the arrest (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). Acting under the statute, a Memphis police officer shot and killed a teenager suspected of burglary. The teenager (Who was Garner’s son) had tried to flee over a fence despite an order to stop (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). In both legal and moral standpoints, the murder of Garner’s son was unlawful and unnecessary.

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The Tennessee statute gave the police excessive power with no regard for the situation in question. The court held that it was unconstitutional because it allowed it allowed the use of deadly force against a non-dangerous, unarmed suspect (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). The authority may be applicable only if, in good faith, the officer has a good reason to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or harm to him/her or the public (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). This act is subject to the reasonable requirements of the Fourth Amendment. To determine whether the use of deadly force is necessary, the governmental interests should balance with the extent of violation of the suspect’s rights (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). Following this rule, a police officer has many ways to force an arrest without resulting in murder. Consequently, the use of deadly force to stop a suspect fleeing arrest is unreasonable.

Burglary is a crime, and the arrest of Garner’s son was justifiable. However, the police officer had no reason to believe that the suspect – young and unarmed – posed any significant threat to him or the public. Also, the fact that he had broken into a house at night did not automatically make Garner’s son dangerous. Therefore, in light of the Fourth Amendment, it was unreasonable for the police officer to use a gun on an unarmed individual (“Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)”). Moreover, burglary in a dwelling is a minor crime. In Garner, it was committed by a juvenile. Therefore, the use of deadly force was illogical and unnecessary.

The Garner incident did not mark the end of the use of deadly force by the police. Over the years, various states in America have witnessed the same police brutality. For example, a case involving the Dallas police occurred in 2010, when an innocent individual was murdered by an officer on duty (The Texas Tribune). Tobias Mackey was walking past a corner when two uniformed men stopped him. The police instructed Mackey to show his hands; however, according to the report made, he moved as if he was reaching for a weapon (The Texas Tribune). Consequently, the officer shot him severally, killing him on the spot (The Texas Tribune). Unfortunately, one of the bullets got a young boy standing by a vending machine (The Texas Tribune). Mackey was not armed, and neither was he in any way dangerous. He was only looking for his brother when he encountered the police (The Texas Tribune). Therefore, similar to Garner’s incident, the use of excessive force was unnecessary. While Mackey’s family received $900,000 in full settlement, the involved police officer (Mr. Tate) was cleared of wrongdoing (The Texas Tribune).For the police, a suspect does not have to possess a gun to be deemed dangerous (The Texas Tribune). However, this does not justify his actions because he acted based on his perception, not his victim's actual threat. This act proves a violation of the Fourth Amendment's standard of reasonable judgment.

The Texas Tribute further reported that cases of police shooting at unarmed civilians often occur. The Texas Tribune revealed that in six years, at least law enforcement officers shot at unarmed individuals at least 109 times, causing 37 deaths and 44 injuries across 36 police departments in Texas. Out of this number, the police missed their target 28 times, resulting in unintended casualties (The Texas Tribune). This is only a small fraction of what could be happening in other states. More often than not, the police's acts of violence are influenced by situational factors such as race, age, ethnicity, and sex, instead of reasonable judgment (The Texas Tribune). Moreover, they decide to shoot in seconds without considering other factors.

The shooting of Garner’s son by the police was both unethical and unlawful. The Tennessee statute that gave police authority to use force to effect arrests was unconstitutional because it allowed it allowed the use of deadly force against a non-dangerous, unarmed suspect. Like Garner's case, a Dallas police officer shot and killed an innocent civilian, who appeared to be reaching for a weapon when asked to show his hands. Such decisions are influenced by situational factors and the fact that an officer has limited time to act.

Works Cited

"Tennessee V. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)." Justia Law, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/471/1/.

The Texas Tribune. "Seeing a Threat, Police Will Shoot an Unarmed Individual." 30 Aug. 2016, apps.texastribune.org/unholstered/unarmed-text/.

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Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985). Free Essay. (2023, Aug 17). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/tennessee-v-garner-471-us-1-1985

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