The Sad Facts of Rockwell
Unsurprisingly, their armed forced entry caused the schizophrenic and bipolar young man to run at them with a knife. At that moment the police officer’s perceived a threat of serious bodily harm to themselves and shot him dead.
Qualified Immunity Law
Under existing qualified immunity law, the circumstances leading up to the officers’ forced entry simply do not matter. Quoting from the Rockwell majority decision:
A Call for Better Officer Training
In Judge DeMoss’s words:
Should Qualified Immunity Be More Limited?
That said, it should not be a radical idea for police officers (and, practically speaking, police departments and their insurers) to have potential liability for civil lawsuits when they unnecessarily escalate a situation to the point where they become justified in using deadly force. In these circumstances, officers and departments should know – based on specific training – that they are not permitted to act in a manner that could foreseeably turn a mildly or moderately intense situation into one that justifies their use of deadly force.
A slight modification to qualified immunity law could provide just the incentive on a departmental level to incentivize de-escalation training and avoid the unnecessary use of deadly force by police officers, whether or not such force is justified in the moment.