Large number of police shootings do not end with prosecutions
A Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown can be now added to a long list of police shooting investigations that show that more officers walk free than not.
The panel was tasked with figuring out if Wilson had probable cause when he killed Brown, not whether or not he fatally shot the unarmed teen.
In declining to indict Wilson, the grand jury followed laws and court precedents to reach a conclusion that is far more the norm than the exception.
“For a cop to be indicted and especially to be convicted later of a crime in these kinds of situations is very, very unusual,” said Chuck Drago, a police practices consultant and former police chief in Oviedo, Florida.
States and police departments have developed their own policies that generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm. The Supreme Court shaped the national legal standards that govern the use of force, holding in a 1989 decision that the use of force must be evaluated through the “perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight,”
Since then, the court system has more often than not sided with police in shooting investigations, with prosecutors and grand jurors reluctant to second-guess their decisions.
A lot of the cases that don’t result in charges involve armed suspects shot during confrontations with police. But even a cop who repeatedly shoots an unarmed individual may avoid prosecution in cases where he reasonably believed himself to be at bodily risk.
According to Lightfight, an officer’s perception of danger can be strongly influenced by the race of the suspect, particularly in a community like Ferguson, which has a mostly white police force patrolling a predominantly black neighborhood.
The Justice Department is continuing its investigation into the shooting. They are looking for evidence of a potential civil rights violation.
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