Are Prosecutors Suddenly More Willing to Prosecute Police?


Recent examples in South Carolina and Baltimore suggest that some local prosecutors are growing more willing to file criminal charges against police officers when citizens die at their hand or while in custody, William H. Freivogel reports in a two-part analysis for KWMU in St. Louis. After grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., decided last year not to indict officers in high-visibility cases, authorities in North Charleston, S.C.; Tulsa, Okla., and Baltimore moved rapidly to charge officers in the recent deaths of Walter Scott, Eric Harris and Freddie Gray, respectively.

David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, said police and prosecutors in the past used “a deliberate stalling tactic” in investigations of police-involved deaths to allow interest in the cases to recede. That may no longer be a viable strategy. “Now, with these high-profile cases since Ferguson, it’s become obvious that the attention will not wane — that people have decided to keep paying attention until there is resolution, one way or the other,” Harris said.

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