Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Joseph Bessette

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© 2014 Dana M. Gibson


The recent shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri rekindled the age-old debate of how the authority of the state to enact the law and guard public safety, specifically in terms of police use of deadly force, ought to properly be balanced against citizens’ rights. The social consequences of this incident illustrate the profound importance of policy governing this issue. This thesis provides an analysis of the governing Supreme Court precedent which informs this issue, as well as the state statutes of Missouri and the police department regulations of Ferguson, Seattle, Denver, and New Hampshire which govern the police use of deadly force. The application of these standards to varying scenarios of the Ferguson shooting serves to demonstrate how these standards operationalize and highlights the discrepancies that exist across jurisdictions in terms of restricting and evaluating police use of deadly force. Ultimately, ambiguity in the current standards, incongruities and difficulties in their implementation, as well as significant concerns of inherent injustice lead to the conclusion that the police use of deadly force should be limited to instances in which such force is necessary to protect human life or prevent serious physical injury.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.