Thursday, September 04, 2014

Hard to charge and convict cops accused of police brutality.

As noted in a prior post, broad legal interpretations of  legal immunities almost always shield police officers and their supervisors and agencies from civil liability when officers kill apparently unarmed suspects.  Little deterrent effect there.  Criminal prosecutions and convictions are even rarer.   According to a NYT article which uses Florida as an example:

[S]tate attorneys are elected, making them vulnerable to political pressure, lawyers said. Police unions wield considerable power in elections.
“They are in bed together, which is why police shootings should be investigated independently,” said Mr. Weiner, the criminal defense lawyer in Miami.

In the end, even if they are charged or indicted, most officers are acquitted by juries. The people who are shot are not always sympathetic in the eyes of jurors; in many cases, they were committing crimes when they were killed. Witnesses can sometimes suffer credibility problems.
By contrast, police officers are often held in high esteem, depending on the jury, and are traditionally viewed as guardians of the community."
Federal actions are more frequent and  likely to get results, but even these are rare. The Danziger Bridge case from New Orleans was discussed in prior posts.  The  officers convicted were awarded new trials because of federal prosecutorial misconduct.

Finally, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of cops are not, as some would claim, "racist pigs."  However, we need better legal mechanisms to deal with the real offenders. 

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