Most Police Shootings Do Not Lead To Criminal Prosecutions


The Missouri grand jury decision not to charge officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown is the latest in a long line of police shootings that show the latitude the law and courts give law enforcement in using deadly force, reports the Associated Press. “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 consultant and former police chief in Oviedo, Fl.

Police departments generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm. The Supreme Court shaped the national standard in a 1989 decision that said the use of force must be evaluated through the “perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene” rather than being judged after the fact. That means officers often get the benefit of the doubt from prosecutors and grand jurors reluctant to second-guess them. “A police officer is not like a normal citizen who discharges their weapon. There is a presumption that somebody who is a peace officer, and is thereby authorized to use lethal force, used it correctly,” said Lori Lightfoot, a Chicago lawyer who investigated police shootings.

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