Universiteit Leiden

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Police Killings in Self-Defense

Tuesday 30 October 2018
Public Ethics Talks
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Spanish Steps


Fatal police shootings often take place when an officer perceives a threat from a civilian and acts in self-defense. In the United States, the law governing the police use of lethal force does not require an officer to have certain knowledge that a civilian is threatening her life, and allows for self-defense under uncertainty. Focusing on the policing context, this presentation asks: When is defensive killing under uncertainty morally permissible?

Jennifer Page will examine five accounts of self-defense under uncertainty, analyzing them by using the hypothetical police shooting case Non-Compliance. Two of the accounts —the Priority of Beliefs Account and the Forbearance Account — are rejected. The remaining three accounts — the Evidence Under Uncertainty Account, the Hindsight Account, and the Dividing the Risk Account —are subsequently assessed as plausible. Each of the three plausible accounts, it is argued, highlights a distinct shortcoming of the existing U.S. law governing the police use of lethal force. The presentation concludes by measuring the police use-of-force protocol in the EU and the Netherlands against the accounts.

free entry, no registration required

Jennifer Page

Jennifer Page is Postdoctoral Fellow at Zurich and previously at the Centre for the Study of Slavery & Justice at Brown University. She has worked as Visiting Lecturer at the Institut d' Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). She completed her BA/MA in Philosophy, Religion, Political Theory, at Boston University and her PhD in Political Theory at Harvard University. Her work areas are Political theory, Democratic theory, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Race.

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