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Lawsuit Questions Constitutionality Of Tulsa Police Department's Deadly Force Policy

A recent court filing says the Tulsa Police Department's policy on the use of deadly force is unconstitutional.

In November 2014, Nathan Boyd was in the middle of a mental health episode when police officers approached his vehicle, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

Boyd was on the phone with a mental health crisis line for veterans when police approached his vehicle. The crisis center had notified police of his condition. According to the original lawsuit filed against the city, Boyd placed two guns on his dashboard for officers to see that he was no longer armed. As he put the second gun on the dashboard, however, a police officer shot Boyd in the neck. He survived.

Boyd’s attorney Spencer Bryan says the current use of deadly force policy doesn’t teach officers to be objective about threats they face, which violates the Fourth Amendment:

Instead of only allowing subjective decisions, Bryan argued that a deadly force decision should include the totality of circumstances. “The use of force, whatever it is, has to be objectively reasonable,” Bryan said. “It can’t be based upon the officer’s subjective beliefs or motivations.” He also said an officer’s subjective beliefs or motivations might actually be in line with the objective standard, but noted that it isn’t always the case.

Tulsa Police have been under scrutiny for the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man shot and killed by a white Tulsa police officer in September.

The city told the newspaper it typically doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Bryan said he does not know whether the deadly force policy in effect then is the same policy followed by officers during Boyd’s shooting. The city has claimed the policy is confidential and only released it to Bryan as part of the lawsuit.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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