Monu Bedi

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Crimes by and against police officers during the performance of their duties are treated differently. If a police officer unlawfully harms a citizen, regular assault or homicide charges apply, whereas if a citizen unlawfully harms a police officer, aggravated assault or homicide charges apply. The enhancement stems from the fact that the citizen interfered with police activity. No one would dispute that states have a special interest in protecting this kind of important state-sanctioned behavior. But do they not also have an equal interest in deterring its abuse through commensurate charges?

This Essay is the first to tackle this asymmetry and explore potential rationales for it. It argues that the unique duties of police officers—and their related ability to use force or deadly force—point to the need for uniform aggravated statutes that regulate both sides of the encounter. The recent shootings by and against police officers over the last few years highlight the importance of this kind of reform. Making a change along these lines will ultimately go a long way to help legitimate police activity in this context.

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