Police license to kill revised

Members of the police force will only be allowed to use their firearms to kill if in mortal danger or trying to save hostages, under a new bill presented by the government yesterday following a number of fatal shootings by officers in recent years. In two salient cases – last October’s western Athens killing of a Gypsy car driver and the October 1998 fatal shooting of a Serbian schoolboy in Thessaloniki – the policemen involved claimed their guns went off accidentally. But on other occasions, officers who hesitated to shoot were harshly criticized for failing to use their weapons. Yesterday, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told a press conference it was time to update the rules on police use of firearms and called current legislation – passed in 1943, during the World War II German occupation – a «legal fossil.» «Over the past decade, crime has visibly adopted more violent forms,» he said. «Criminals more and more often resort to armed violence, making it inevitable that police should also use guns.» A draft law drawn up by a committee of judges, criminologists, law experts and senior police officers lays down specific guidelines for when policemen can use their guns – and to what effect – while stipulating that all members of the force must be assessed on their ability to wield firearms. Officers will undergo psychological examinations and those who fail will be assigned non-armed duties. Police officers will only be able to fire their guns if all other means have been exhausted, they have stated their identity, issued a clear and understandable warning and granted suspects sufficient time to respond – unless that poses a mortal threat or a threat of injury to the officer in question. Officers will be able to shoot to kill when in mortal danger or trying to save hostages but not when unarmed bystanders could be hit, or against people fleeing an attempt to check their documents.

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