Nonprofit Quarterly on the International Human Rights Clinic's Report on Police Use of Force

Study Finds Police in 20 of Top 20 US Cities Violate Human Rights

A comprehensive 100-page study by the University of Chicago Law School International Human Rights clinic, titled Deadly Discretion: The Failure of Police Use of Force Policies to Meet Fundamental International Human Rights Law and Standards, found that of the police departments in the 20 most populous US cities, “not a single police department was operating under guidelines that are compliant with the minimum standards laid out under international human rights laws.”

For their study, the authors examined use of lethal force policies from police departments in the 20 largest US cities by population in 2018. This data was analyzed with a grading system developed with international law standards, including the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, UN Basic Principles on the Use of Forces and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and the 2014 report by the then-UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions.

The study overwhelmingly found US police forces fail to meet fundamental international human rights laws and standards. Not a single department was operating under the guidelines with the minimum standards laid out under international human rights, resulting in more death, violent techniques used abundantly, lack of de-escalation measures, and inadequate accountability structures when death occurs.

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