One of the loudest and most repeated messages connected to the recent rash of anti-police protests centers around officer-involved shooting (OIS) investigations. More specifically, who should conduct OIS investigations. Citizens, politicians and scholars alike argue that the current system of prosecutors and police officers investigating other police officers is flawed from the very start. But the question becomes who else is there?
Although each jurisdiction varies slightly, the basic method for conducting an OIS investigation is generally two pronged. First, there is a department investigation which generally involves internal affairs, the training department and command staff. This internal probe is designed to determine if there were any potential violations of department policy, training protocol or issues related to communication, unit deployment etc. Second, there is a criminal investigation which may be conducted by the department’s internal affairs, the prosecutor’s office, the state police or a neighboring department. Of course, the focus of this investigation is to determine whether or not the officer(s) involved may have violated any laws related to excessive force or suspect mistreatment. Of course, as witnessed during many recent investigations, there is likely to be a third probe conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice which will focus on potential civil rights violations.
The problem is that no one seems to be satisfied with this system, claiming department investigators will cover up evidence that paints the department in a poor light and, regardless of who conducts the criminal investigation, that cops will protect cops. Many critics were more than happy to see the DOJ take a more active role; that is, until their investigation of the Ferguson Mo. shooting resulted in a finding in favor of the officer. Again, we find ourselves back at square one asking “Who?”
Some critics have proposed a civilian review board comprised of non-department scholars and citizens with no ties, or loyalty, to the law enforcement community. This is not a new idea and has actually been utilized by a variety of communities since the 1970s, originally spurred by a similar period of citizen/police violence. Many larger departments continue to utilize civilian complaint boards to this day. Some simply make a recommendation to the chief, mayor or city council who then issues a final ruling. Others issue a completely independent report and may even have the authority to hand down punishment related to officer conduct – although prosecutors still retain the final say when it comes to actual criminal charges. But even this system is flawed.
A recent ruling by the CRB in Los Angles is a prime example of what happens when civilians with no police experience apply incorrect legal evaluation to what experts saw as an almost textbook example of a justified shooting. The case in question involved two LAPD officers who had attempted to question a gentleman by the name of Ezell Ford. As the officers approached Ford, he quickly turned and attacked one of the officers, taking the officer to the ground while attempting to take away his firearm. The second officer, fearing for his partner’s live, shot Ford twice. As the attack continued, the first officer was able to access his back up firearm and shot Ford in the abdomen. Ford later died from his injuries.
The CRB ruled that the shooting was unjustified despite a finding by police investigators that the officers had no choice but to shoot Ford in order to prevent him from gaining access to the first officer’s duty weapon, which would have presented a clear danger to the officers and the public. The problem is the CRB based its findings not on the facts of the case, but on misread and misapplied court ruling relating to the Fourth Amendment, not Use of Force. Although many have claimed outrage at the finding, it is not only understandable but it is to be expected. Not only do CRBs lack police experience and have little professional investigation or legal experience, they are also subject to swaying by the same emotions as other citizens. So, it comes as no surprise that they would find a way to rule against the officers and justify their findings through flawed legal interpretations.
With so much bias on both sides, who will police the police?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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