University of Idaho Law Professor to Discuss Police Use of Deadly Force at Vandal Voices Event 

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University of Idaho

Before taking a job at the University of Idaho College of Law, Associate Professor Katherine Macfarlane worked for two years defending officers with the New York Police Department in civil suits about police use of force. Between 2011 and 2013, she said she was involved in approximately 80 cases.

"I've been on both sides of the aisle and seen what the police shooting training looks like," she said.

The age of camera phones has helped make police use of force into headline material, but justified or unjustified, violence coming from the people entrusted with public safety is nothing new. According to Macfarlane, the U.S. Supreme Court has placed relatively few restrictions on cops when it comes to using pepper spray, billy clubs, Tasers and even firearms.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, Macfarlane will host the latest installment in the Vandal Voices series, "When Police Shoot to Kill, the Law and the Use of Deadly Force," at Ha'Penny Bridge Irish Pub and Grill. There, she will discuss high-profile instances of police violence, its history and the legal mechanisms that are triggered when officers are accused of brutality.

"Why is it that so often we have shootings that don't resolve in indictments, and if a family sues, they don't win a civil judgement? There are reasons those things happen, and we have dissatisfactory results," she said.

To answer her own question, Macfarlane said police are protected by a high latitude to make "reasonable mistakes" when it comes to protecting the public through a use of forceā€”a topic she will delve into at length at her "Shoot to Kill" presentation.

She will also discuss the role of race and implicit bias in policing, noting that racial bias affects both suspects and police officers of color alike. That can be a touchy thing to talk about: When the event was announced on a University of Idaho Facebook page, Macfarlane said one person left a message saying "implicit bias doesn't exist." Ask Macfarlane, though, and she'll say that in many instances involving interactions with the police, "There are different scenarios that play out based on who you are," and as the Gem State's population booms, that's increasingly an issue the public should understand.

"With our growing Hispanic population, it's something that even in Idaho we have to be aware of," she said.
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