California prosecutors regularly hire former police officers to investigate controversial officer-shootings involving their former departments, reports the Bay Citizen. Prosecutors said they use former police officers for the investigations because they are best suited for the job, coming with years of training and experience. Other prosecutors and investigators said prior police employment wouldn’t necessarily bias the investigation or outcome of a case. But legal ethicists say the use of former police officers creates an appearance of a conflict of interest that can erode public trust.
The ethcists they say many ex-officers still have ties to their former departments, including a sense of allegiance to the “thin blue line” that can influence the subjective process of an investigation. Ten district attorney's offices in California contacted said they use former officers for their police shooting inquiries. The chief executive officer of the California District Attorneys Association, called the practice “very common.” Some prosecutors, however, keep the identities of the investigators who work on police officer shootings secret – the public may never know about potential conflicts of interest in police shooting investigations. The story includes a sidebar suggesting how the California investigation can be replicated in other places.