The fatal shooting by a Los Angeles police officer of car-theft suspect Devin Brown, 13, is the latest in a string of cases in which Los Angeles County has refused to prosecute police, says the Los Angeles Times. Of 442 officer-involved shootings reviewed since January 2001, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has not brought a single criminal case. Three of 314 alleged excessive-force cases examined in the same period resulted in criminal charges.
Critics say Cooley and other district attorneys have undermined public confidence by shying away from prosecuting officers. “It’s true you can’t always second-guess police officers, but when you don’t file any cases it doesn’t promote confidence in the justice system,” said Ramona Ripston of the American Civil Liberties Union. Experts say broad legal protections, as well as public admiration, make prosecuting law enforcement officers extremely difficult. Police may use deadly force if they reasonably think their lives are in danger, a factor Cooley’s office cited in deciding against charges for officer Steve Garcia in Brown’s shooting.