Proposed law-enforcement standards would limit police use of guns in US
Atlanta — * On average, one person a day is killed by police in the United States, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Allegations of abuse of police power are often raised in these cases.
* Seventeen-year-old Christopher Peterman died earlier this year. He had been beaten and tortured by other teen-age inmates in a Boise, Idaho, jail cell, while authorities were absent.
The issues raised here - the proper safeguarding of arrested persons and the use of firearms by police - are among the hundreds addressed in the nation's first set of measurable standards for police, drawn up by four of the major police organizations in the US. (Police would have to document compliance.)
Better police protection for the public is the main goal of the standards, which police departments may adopt or reject next year. They are being reviewed now for comment by police departments across the country.
Under the standards, police would use their investigative skills more and their guns less. With few exceptions, police could no longer shoot a fleeing felon, something about half the states currently allow. More follow-up investigations would be required. And police would have to make greater efforts to document such actions as personally observing those arrested every 30 minutes and making greater efforts to recruit minorities.
The standards would increase police ''professionalism,'' says James P. Damos, chief of police in University City, Mo., and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Some of the standards could be implemented without extra money, says Chief Damos. Others would require federal assistance, he says, though the Reagan administration has promised no such help.
Without such US aid, the new standards could ''become meaningless,'' says Walt Pellicer, sheriff in Palatka, Fla., and head of the National Sheriff's Association (NSA).
The standards have been drawn up by the IACP, NSA, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and a much smaller organization, the Police Executive Research Forum, composed of the police chiefs from larger cities. These groups provided the staff for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Since 1929, presidential and national commissions have recommended improvements in police departments. This is the first time such recommendations have been matched with measurable, detailed steps to implement them, according to the commission.
The commission staff hopes local politicians and the public will insist on adoption of the standards by police departments.
Sheriff Pellicer has ''mixed emotions'' about the proposed ban on shooting fleeing felons. ''A lot of officers don't use very good judgment. There's got to be some restraints put on them. But you can't turn a robber foot-loose,'' he says.
Under laws in 23 states, police can shoot a fleeing felon. Within the past several years, many other states have tightened their laws on when police can use their guns.
All four of the police organizations that drew up the standards concurred on the ban on shooting fleeing felons except where life was being threatened. Opposition to this standard is expected in some states.
But NOBLE official Henry Lesansky hopes the standard, and a companion one restricting all use of firearms to life-threatening situations, are adopted nationwide. The issue of police use of firearms continues to be a major point of contention in many cities, especially in black communities, he says. The US Civil Rights Commission last year traced almost every racial riot and disturbance in 1980 - including the Miami riot - to an allegation of abuse of force by police.
Leo Marchetti, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which he says represents some 160,000 police in the US, had not seen the standards but says that if they advance professionalism he hopes they will not languish on shelves for lack of funding.