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Adding Insult to Injury: The Justification Frame in Official Narratives of Officer-Involved Killings

August 2022

From Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics

This article identifies the justification frame as a common narrative used by public officials to justify the use of lethal force by police. Officials deploy the justification frame to obfuscate the use of force or claim that victims posed a threat to officers in order to justify civilian deaths. I examine initial statements given in the aftermath of officer-involved deaths in 2016, focusing on incidents where an on-duty officer used force against victims who did not pose a threat when they were killed. I find that elements of the justification frame appear frequently in the explanations issued after these incidents. Statements about Black decedents are more likely to deploy the justification frame.