Police officers need to respect life

Updated: 2014-06-05 07:50

(China Daily)

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The Ministry of Public Security recently launched a special program to train police personnel in the proper use of firearms and many cities' governments have implemented policies for frontline security bureau officers who carry firearms on duty. Though the moves are aimed at strengthening social security, they will be a new test for police officers, says an article on gmw.cn. Excerpts:

From the accidental firing of a handgun by a police officer during an awareness demonstration in a kindergarten in Henan province to the shooting of a drunken man who was threatening to hurt his wife by another police officer in Guizhou province, the use of firearms by law enforcement officers has been questioned by the public.

To shoot or not to shoot a suspect has always been a sensitive and controversial issue for police officers. Police officers have to fulfill a huge social responsibility and have to decide what to do in a flash when other's or their own security is under threat. And to top it, their decisions have to pass the scrutiny of the public and the law.

Many believe police officers carry too heavy a burden, especially because quite a few of them are reluctant to use firearms.

Given the seriousness of the public security situation, people in general agree that police officers should carry firearms on duty but they want them to pull the trigger only when no other option is left.

The People's Police Law says that police officers "may use weapons in case of emergencies such as (people) resisting arrest ... escaping from prison, grabbing firearms or other acts of violence" in accordance with the laws of the State and with the intention and preparation to cause minimum damage to life and property.

However, it is difficult to strictly follow such a principle in emergencies because laws and regulations cannot foresee all possible situations. As a result, police officers enjoy certain discretionary powers to decide whether or not to shoot in an emergency, although they have to abide by certain social regulations.

The only reason for police officers to fire is to stop a suspect from inflicting severe injury on others, including police officers. When it comes to the moment of truth - that is, whether to shoot a suspect and whether to shoot to kill or maim him/her - police officers should evaluate the lethality of the weapon being wielded by the suspect and the extent of damage he/she could cause to the life and property of others. So the instructions that regulate the use of guns by police officers should be refined.

Before deciding to shoot, police officers should weigh the value of human life, because they don't have the right to end a suspect's life without a very powerful reason. And they should know that every decision they take in the use of guns should pass public questioning.

One is thus prompted to ask whether there was need to shoot the suspects in the recent cases, especially the Guizhou one. In this sense, it is more important to teach police officers to strictly abide by the law and respect human life than to simply train them in the proper use of firearms.

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