When All Right Means Something is Wrong
“With this many officer involved shootings (OIS) in this community, why has not one LEO ever been prosecuted following an OIS?” This question is becoming more common during interviews with the media. The question provides me an opportunity for education, but the premise of the inquiry is disturbing.
We spend countless hours in classrooms, on firing ranges, in simulators, and other training environments in an effort to teach LEOs the laws surrounding the use of deadly force, marksmanship, performance under extreme stress, and lawful decision making regarding the use of deadly force. We evaluate LEOs and terminate them from their initial training if they fail to make the grade on these performance standards. Each year, we reinforce these principles through annual qualifications as well as classroom work. So, with all of this training, testing, and qualification, why are some people surprised when LEOs are not prosecuted after using deadly force?
The goal of all of this effort is to ensure that LEOs will know the law, make good decisions, and have the skills to effectively use deadly force within the confines of the law and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The use of force, including deadly force, is part of the job description and sworn duty of every LEO. In some circumstances, if they fail to use force, including deadly force, we would all consider such inaction as a dereliction of their duty. It is amazing that a LEO who fulfills their sworn obligations under the law is immediately scrutinized and the entire criminal justice system in a community is suspect when the LEO carries out her obligations.
Other groups are asking this same question. Watchdog groups, people in the informal media, and some government entities also believe that a lack of prosecutions in relation to the number of OIS signals a problem. That is a flawed logic that begins with one of two premises: either LEOs should not be using deadly force at all or any LEO who uses deadly force is a suspect. I have heard both arguments and both are distasteful.
Watch the news in the coming months and you will see the true effect of these principles. This should cause every LEO to pause and reflect about the efforts they are taking to protect themselves in the event of an OIS. Join the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Program. Make certain that you have an attorney respond to the scene and represent you through the administrative, criminal and prosecutorial investigations. Never travel this path alone as your OIS may be the one that these groups want to bring before a criminal jury. Stay safe.