Federal Officers’ Use of Deadly Force

We have many federal agencies that are tasked with protecting the public. Outfits, including the DEA, FBI, ATF, and Federal Marshals all share that mandate. In the course of their work, however, they have been responsible for more than 150 fatalities and 80 injuries over a period of just five years. That leads to questions about just how these agencies operate. 

Minor Reforms

The Biden administration has recently addressed some of the biggest complaints law enforcement has seen, requiring the first reforms federal agencies have experienced in the past 20 years. Those reforms include: 

  • Intervention requirements for officers who observe excessive force in the field;
  • Greater requirements for body camera usage;
  • No-knock warrant restrictions.

Rules for Federal Agencies

The fact that state and local law enforcement agencies have undergone some monumental reforms in recent years has been highly publicized. But the same is apparently not true for federal law enforcement agencies. Data surrounding use-of-force incidents are heavily cloaked. We know that many local agencies have done away with the use of chokeholds and have ramped up training related to de-escalation, for example, but it is unclear how policies at the federal level have been impacted by publicized lethal force incidents in recent years. Former federal officers can confirm that there is generally little to no oversight when it comes to federal data, making it virtually impossible to understand the who, what, why, when, and how of federal shootings. What we do know is this: federal officers—and those working in tandem with them– are sanctioned to shoot at moving vehicles and often shoot suspects within seconds of an encounter. These are generally unacceptable for more local police.

Facts About Federal Law Enforcement

Just who are the people who wind up on the other side of federal officers’ weapons, and what do we know about the agencies that pursue them?

  • While all law enforcement operations must conduct a risk assessment prior to attempting an arrest, the bar for federal agencies is much lower than for state and local agencies.
  • Over 40% of these suspects have been charged with violent crimes, including rape, murder, and armed robbery.
  • Accidental victims who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time account for about 10% of shootings.
  • Between ten and twenty percent of those shot by federal agents and/or cooperating local agencies were wanted for just low-level charges such as simple parole violations.
  • About two in ten had warrants related to felony gun or drug possession, and in some instances, these suspects fired on officers first.
  • 49 officers were shot, six of whom died.
  • Multiple officers fired a weapon in roughly half of all shootings.
  • US Marshals are not expected to engage in de-escalation tactics prior to using lethal force.
  • US Marshals’ operations resulted in the majority of fatalities.
  • To date, no Marshals have ever been prosecuted following a shooting incident.
  • One in ten gun fights occurred during daylight hours in high-traffic areas.
  • One fatal shooting actually occurred when officers killed a pall-bearer while performing his duties at a funeral.

Why All the Secrecy of Federal Data?

The disconcerting lack of data related to the excessive use of force in federal agencies is problematic. Although the last several presidents have signed executive orders or laws requiring as much, we are still waiting to see the reports. At The Law Office of David M Boertje, we believe that the lack of transparency could mean that some federal agencies are hiding civil rights violations. If you have had a run-in with federal officers and believe this is the case, the experienced criminal defense attorneys in our San Diego office can help. Schedule a confidential consultation today.

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