Police Responsibility


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Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 02:22 PM
Should police be just as responsible for every bullet they fire as we are responsible for ours? I believe so. Countless times police have accidentally wounded or killed someone who is innocent and face no charges at all, while if an average citizen accidentally shoots someone they are charged with homicide or assault. Countless times I have read stories of police serving a warrant and shootings somebody only to later find out they are innocent. It's not only with people, police SWAT teams routinely kill family dogs when serving a warrant when the dogs are not even acting aggressive but just simply barking. If a regular citizen were to shoot a neighbor's dog without provocation, they would be arrested and charged. Does anybody else feel that the police are granted rights that put them above the law?

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dogtown tom
March 15, 2011, 02:47 PM
Should police be just as responsible for every bullet they fire as we are responsible for ours? I believe so. Countless times police have accidentally wounded or killed someone who is innocent and face no charges at all...

You might want to check your facts. Police officers are routinely held responsible for negligent shootings.:scrutiny:

But it was a good rant.:rolleyes:

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 02:51 PM
Woah, there! You're making some pretty serious accusations. Do you know of instances where an officer shot someone by mistake and there were no repercussions? Considering the litigation that takes place when an officer steps over the line in using non-lethal force on a suspect, I have grave doubts that there are unlawful homicides that are going unpunished.

Perhaps you could research some of these "countless" instances and find out what investigations took place afterward, what court cases were tried (both criminal and civil) and what the sentences or settlements involved.

I'm not saying it never happens, but a thread like this should not be about what we "feel like" might happen. Without something concrete to discuss, this is no better than a thread asking if we "feel like" citizens who carry a concealed weapon are likely to kill the wrong person.

We have enough paranoia about law enforcement already.

Having said that, a sworn law enforcement officer IS granted more leeway than an average joe citizen in how and when he may draw and use his weapon. And, he is indemnified by his agency in the event of mistakes and unintended consequences of lawful police activity -- so long as he/she was following official procedure and acting under the authority of the department.

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 02:59 PM
I'm not saying that all instances of police negligent shootings go untried, but a number of them do, and most that are tried are acquitted due to their Official Immunity. Basically, they have to prove that what (s)he did was out of malice in order to convict. The rules are just different for police. Say a citizen is armed and they are in an argument with someone on the street, the other person suddenly reaches into their pocket so the armed citizen shoots them, turns out that person wasn't armed and was reaching for a vibrating cell phone. The one who did the shooting will be convicted of some form of homicide or assault depending on whether or not the innocent dies. If an on duty police officer does that same, they will most likely either get their conduct reviewed or get a citation, but nothing more than that.

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 03:04 PM
Okay Sam, consider collateral damage as an example. A police officer in a shootout hits a 7-year-old skipping down the street. Yes he will be investigated and there will mostly likely be a civil lawsuit filed, but, in most cases they will be acquitted of negligent homicide. If a regular citizen was acting in self defense and a stray bullet fired from his/her weapon strikes and kills a bystander, they will most certainly be charged with assault/homicide and sued, and the shooter will most likely lose.

essayons21
March 15, 2011, 03:04 PM
Sam1911,

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/2011_0310swat_stumble_fatal_grandfathers_kin_reel_as_cops_admit_accident/srvc=home&position=also

Off the top of my head. Officer has a ND and kills innocent man, all due to executing a dynamic entry pursuant to a search warrant for a suspect they already had in custody

How many citizens can kill someone due to a negligent discharge and not be charged? How many people could kill someone by accident at work and still be employed?

Yes, he probably will be disciplined, possibly fired (although its not looking likely), and hopefully the family will sue, both the department and the officer.

I am not a cop-basher, I have a family lineage of law enforcement, and I currently work with local and federal law enforcement. I know that there are good cops and bad cops, good departments and bad departments. But this blue wall crap has to stop and police need to start holding themselves accountable.

EDIT: The Cato Institute has some good articles on the subject. Start here (http://www.cato.org/raidmap/).

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 03:12 PM
Essayons21, I was actually considering posting that very same Cato map. I decided against it because it's a LOT of info.

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 03:22 PM
I'm not saying that all instances of police negligent shootings go untried, but a number of them do, and most that are tried are acquitted due to their Official Immunity. Basically, they have to prove that what (s)he did was out of malice in order to convict. The rules are just different for police.
You are at least somewhat correct. The rules are different to specific degrees as otherwise no person could act as a police officer. We, the citizenry, employ police officers as public servants who are granted certain protections (legal as well as physical) while on official duty. Surely you'd agree that has to be so.

Say a citizen is armed and they are in an argument with someone on the street, the other person suddenly reaches into their pocket so the armed citizen shoots them, turns out that person wasn't armed and was reaching for a vibrating cell phone. The one who did the shooting will be convicted of some form of homicide or assault depending on whether or not the innocent dies. Not necessarily. If the shooter can convince the arresting officers, DA, Grand Jury, or petit jury that his action was reasonable -- that he had a reasonable fear for his life -- then he certainly may be acquitted.

If an on duty police officer does that same, they will most likely either get their conduct reviewed or get a citation, but nothing more than that. How do you know this? Do you have any examples? I can't decide whether to agree with your or not based on a hypothetical that you think is the way these things work. I can say with certainty that police officers have been convicted and sent to prison for unlawful shootings. Is the standard somewhat different for a sworn officer? Probably. Acting not on official duty, maybe. (Note that most police officers are never really "off" duty -- without official duty to respond to unlawful acts, etc.)

henschman
March 15, 2011, 03:24 PM
Prosecutors do not like to bring charges against cops. Also, juries tend to be very biased in favor of cops. If anyone is hurt during a search executed by cops, a lot of jurors would not vote to convict or hold liable the cop because they figure that if you are being searched, you must be doing somehting wrong, and if you're doing something wrong, you had it coming to you and the juror will take it upon himself to see that this happens.

Hoppes Love Potion
March 15, 2011, 03:26 PM
The other thing is, if the police are sued and lose, the taxpayers pay the settlement. Not much of a deterrent for bad actors, IMO.

essayons21
March 15, 2011, 03:30 PM
Not necessarily. If the shooter can convince the arresting officers, DA, Grand Jury, or petit jury that his action was reasonable -- that he had a reasonable fear for his life -- then he certainly may be acquitted.

Not likely. A citizen who shoots an officer is guilty unless proven innocent, and thats almost impossible.

See the Ryan Frederick case, one that was close to home for me.

In fact, I'd like to see a single case in recent history where a citizen shot an officer acting in the line of duty and didn't serve jail time.

Gouranga
March 15, 2011, 03:32 PM
Wow they have a lot of scary incidents there. A few local to my area.

I would say there is enough there to warrant a discussion on it.

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 03:33 PM
Okay Sam, consider collateral damage as an example. A police officer in a shootout hits a 7-year-old skipping down the street. Yes he will be investigated and there will mostly likely be a civil lawsuit filed, but, in most cases they will be acquitted of negligent homicide. If a regular citizen was acting in self defense and a stray bullet fired from his/her weapon strikes and kills a bystander, they will most certainly be charged with assault/homicide and sued, and the shooter will most likely lose.


There is a different standard, certainly, in whether or not an officer or a government entity can be sued for various things. I still object to your "most likely" and "most cases" statements. I don't think you're working with concrete information.

An officer acting in his official duties, who had to deploy his weapon in order to carry out those duties is going to be largely immune from prosecution for that kind of accident (I believe) because we view his need to act as in the interests of society and more compelling than the grave risks to bystanders that those actions may engender. Note, however, that police policy has shifted a long way in the last few decades to get away from this kind of thing. Shootouts are not encouraged, nor are high-speed chases unless the reason for pursuit or shots to be fired is so grave that the risks to the public are deemed worth it.

Should these protections be extended to civilians? I won't argue against that. I'm a big fan of the felony murder rule.

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 03:34 PM
A citizen who shoots an officer is guilty unless proven innocent...When did a citizen shooting a police officer enter the discussion?

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 03:34 PM
Hoppes, that's not always true. If you are suing a police officer and you win, you get paid by the police officer and what ever insurance they are required to have because of union membership. If you are suing the district, the taxpayer pay. Since you can't effectively sue each individual person who played a part in the events leading to the shooting and because of the individual investigations into the police officer usually end up determining the shooting as "justifiable" your only option would be to sue the district for damages and hope that the jury sides with you. Another problem is a cop's word takes precedence over a citizens word usually. And cops tend to stick together and defend their associates, whether by honesty or purgery.

Art Eatman
March 15, 2011, 03:38 PM
Where I disagree with the thrust of this thread is that I fault the political bosses of the city or county. THEY are the ones with specific legal power to clean up any such mess.

Personal opinion, but ANY problem of whatever sort with any police department is the responsibility of the local elected officials. The voters can remedy the problem.

A sheriff's office, where the sheriff is elected? The county commissioners are in control of his budget. Again, the voters can remedy the problem.

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 03:39 PM
Yes, he probably will be disciplined, possibly fired (although its not looking likely), and hopefully the family will sue, both the department and the officer.
Ok. So the case has not been settled yet. Not having all of the facts in this case, it appears the officer was acting in his official capacity and with the information he was given by his superiors. (He didn't knowingly enter the wrong house.)

Negligent discharge during a felony arrest? Yeah, I'm sure that happens. Should the officer go to jail for it? Or should his department be liable for the multiplicity of mistakes that lead to the death?

A "Joe Citizen" could never have been in that position to begin with as he has no authority to do any of those things, and would not have been required to perform that task as part of his official duty.

KenW.
March 15, 2011, 03:43 PM
In my area, for an officer involved shooting there are at several investigations. The first is by the agency, (in my area, by a task force is selected from several nearby agencies; the leadership rotates) to determine if the shooting was reasonable and necessary. The next by the prosecutor's office to see if criminal charges are warranted,
Another can be done to compare the officer's actions to the agency's policy.

LEOs are looked at more stringently, by more investigators, and more agencies, than others. We had the FBI look at one of our more recent shootings; and no one was even hit.

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 03:46 PM
A larger cause of these problems is mainly due to the policies of the 80's and 90's that began to militarize the police. Nowadays(I apologize for using that word), the SWAT team is used to execute warrants on nonviolent people who are not an immediate threat, which was the original purpose of a SWAT team. The use of violence to stop violence is justifiable, but the use of violence to arrest a nonviolent, non-retreating person is not justifiable.

Sam1911
March 15, 2011, 03:47 PM
Also, juries tend to be very biased in favor of cops. If anyone is hurt during a search executed by cops, a lot of jurors would not vote to convict or hold liable the cop because they figure that if you are being searched, you must be doing somehting wrong, and if you're doing something wrong, you had it coming to you and the juror will take it upon himself to see that this happens. I agree that this must sometimes be so. Maybe most of the time. But it sure cuts both ways. If a good attorney can convince the jury that this is a case of the big bad police strapping on the jackboots and oppressing someone and/or infringing their rights, there can be some surprising results.

KodiakBeer
March 15, 2011, 04:02 PM
Art makes a very good point above.

Who is responsible for the police? Ultimately it is ourselves, the voters, who are responsible for the actions of public employees. We elect those who set and enforce the rules under which the police operate. If you don't like the rules (or think those rules aren't being enforced), fire the rulers.

ZeBool
March 15, 2011, 04:05 PM
While I have a lot of respect for law enforcement, it is obvious that we in no way, shape or form play by the same rules. If I shot someone in self defense, I would almost certainly spend the night(or longer) in jail. If it was decided by the powers that be that I must defend my actions in court, it is possible that I may have to post bail while waiting for a trial. Police in the same situation at most might be suspended with pay pending investigation.

That said, I don't agree with the vitriol towards police in this thread, and do not feel that they are out to get us.

Gouranga
March 15, 2011, 04:19 PM
and do not feel that they are out to get us.

x2, There is no great conspiracy but (basing this off the news article I am seeing) it does seem that there is way too much leniency given to their mistakes.

I mean I am seeing multiple cases where a SWAT is executing no-knock raids for Marijuana possession (that's a misdemeanor), and then doing raids based solely on the words of an informant who is likely a criminal himself. Seems to me the officers doing these raids need to be held criminally liable for the outcomes when they grossly screw up like going to the wrong address. I would also hold the leadership giving the orders needs to hold a higher level of liability than the officer on the street particularly when they order a raid on an incorrect address.

To be certain and clear THESE ARE RARE EVENTS. However, imagine middle of the night, cops kick in your door cause they transposed 2 digits on an address, or looked at the wrong mailbox. I would be likely to open fire on them believing I was being robbed. I would likely be killed because of that. Seems ti me upping the stakes on leadership for screwing up these raids would be a good way to up their fact checking.

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 04:20 PM
ZeBool, I agree with you that if you're a cop and you shoot someone you get to go home that night, while if you're a citizen and you shoot someone you spend the night in an interrogation room and a jail cell waiting for your lawyer to come in the morning.

ATBackPackin
March 15, 2011, 04:29 PM
The problem as I see it is that most of America has become so obsessed with the illusion of safety that the police are give quite a lot of liberties. Some warranted, some not. Most people feel that if an innocent person gets hurt by the police that it is better than allowing the guilty ones to get away and continue their bad ways. If this were not true, there would be outrage every time an innocent person was hurt or killed by the police. Most Americans would rather see an innocent person in prison than a guilty one free.

The worse part of it to me is even after the police realize they made a mistake, they fight the people or family tooth and nail for any kind of compensation for their wrong actions.

For the record I am not against the police or LE of any kind. Quite the opposite actually, but I feel that these kind of mistakes are going to continue to happen until America becomes outraged. But that's never going to happen to me right, so everything is OK. All in the name of safety, after all it is all about the children.

Shawn

Oh by the way, if you ever get to watch a documentary called "After Innocence", I recommend it.

Olde School
March 15, 2011, 04:37 PM
That said, I don't agree with the vitriol towards police in this thread, and do not feel that they are out to get us.

+1 Thank you for stating that.

Erik
March 15, 2011, 04:52 PM
Where to start...

In no particular order:

No, the police do not play by "the same rules." Similar ones, but not the same.

Yes, there are different dynamics (socially, politically, and legally) in play.

The concept of the "totality of the circumstances" enters into play. Facts known whether true or not, time of day, weather, perceptions, training, fitness levels, knowledge, abilities, policy, law, etc. The scope of what may be considered is quite broad. But it cannot include hind-sight. All of it enters into the equation.

Intentionally shooting the "wrong" person? Given the totality of the circumstances, what triggered the shooting? (Pardon the pun.) A test of reasonableness is applied. Where deemed reasonable prior to charges, none come. After the charges? Charges dropped. During trial? Acquittal.

Unintentionally shooting the "wrong" person? Same as above.

Intentionally shooting the "right" person? Same as above.

Unintentionally shooting the "right" person? Same as above.

Note: Conclusions such as, "it was an accident" are not the answer to the equation, but part of the totality of the circumstances; part of the equation. Accidents happen, even fatal ones. From there, a question of reasonableness must be answered. If the answer to the questions of reasonableness are affirmative, then there is usually no liability, whether criminally or civilly.

Best - E

kdave21
March 15, 2011, 05:06 PM
Speaking as a police officer, I can say that, in most circumstances and situations, police are held to a very high standard. Every thing we do is up for grabs when it comes to lawsuits. I have to fill out a piece of paperwork every time my firearm is fired, the only exception being for range time. If I have to put down an injured deer, and it takes one bullet, it is documented. If I had a ND or AD down in the armory, I guarantee you I would have some serious explaining to do. I cant imagine the repercussions of (God forbid-literally) injuring an innocent bystander, and I pray that law enforcement personnel never have the nightmare of being guilty of something like that.
All that being said, anytime you fire a weapon, even in a very controlled setting like a firing line, there is ALWAYS a chance of a FREAK accident happening. Now imagine making split decisions when lives are on the line and bullets are flying towards you.
Obviously anyone can find some limited examples where police should have been held accountable and they weren't. You could also easily find examples where criminals should have been held accountable and they weren't. Both of these two facts are a result of the fact that we live in a fallen, imperfect world, filled with imperfect humans. I agree that we should cherish justice, and NO law enforcement personnel should be "above the law." However a certain maturity and objectiveness is required when looking at the TYPEs of situations and dangers that police are put into every day. Police are in high risk situations much more than the average citizen.
No matter your feelings on this matter, I can say with 100% confidence, the law enforcement personnel I have come across have a deep desire to PROTECT the innocent, and the LAST thing they would ever want is to take even a CHANCE of harming anyone. They are decent hardworking people like everyone else, but also, and secondarily, their jobs, their livelihoods, and their families are dependent upon the great responsibility that has been placed on them.
As a final note, I dont know of ANY officers that would take lightly the shooting of a dog. It has been said that the general public will raise a bigger outcry about a dog killing than most any other offense.

9mmepiphany
March 15, 2011, 05:09 PM
There are different rules, there has to be for officers to do the job that we ask of them.

Officers have much different rules that govern how a shooting investigation is handled. The officers have much more in-depth investigations (yes that is meant to imply plural) and they do not have an absolute right to Fifth Amendment protections...they can be terminated for seeking that protection. Would you be willing to give up your 5th Adm rights during a shooting investigation?

Officers are mandated to investigate violent crimes and enter potentially violent environments...to offset this inherent danger, they are allowed to brandish their weapons whereas a non-LE citizen could be charged with a crime for doing so. Would you be willing to give up your right to retreat or not engage a dangerous situation?

Yes, they do work under a different set of rules of engagement...because their job description mandates engagements any reasonable person would avoid

Kleanbore
March 15, 2011, 05:26 PM
Posted by Pigoutultra: Should police be just as responsible for every bullet they fire as we are responsible for ours? I believe so.Yes, and they are. Countless times police have accidentally wounded or killed someone who is innocent and face no charges at all, while if an average citizen accidentally shoots someone they are charged with homicide or assault.Any time an officer shoots someone, the incident is investigated. Any time a civilian shoots someone, the incident is investigated. In either case, if the shooting was truly accidental, the shooting does not constitute a criminal act; if the shooter displayed gross negligence, charges may be filed.

There is also the issue of civil liability; the civilian is on his own, while the police officer is indemnified by the community that he or she serves.

Countless times I have read stories of police serving a warrant and shootings somebody only to later find out they are innocent. It's not only with people, police SWAT teams routinely kill family dogs when serving a warrant when the dogs are not even acting aggressive but just simply barking. If a regular citizen were to shoot a neighbor's dog without provocation, they would be arrested and charged. Does anybody else feel that the police are granted rights that put them above the law?Pigout, you need to understand the difference between the duties of a sworn officer and the rights of a civilian.

The latter may use deadly force only if it is necessary as a last resort for defense against imminent danger; he or she is expected to avoid such danger if it is at all possible.

The sworn officer, on the other hand, has the duty to apprehend and arrest suspects under dangerous circumstances, putting themselves in harms way; when a SWAT team is called in, it is because it is believed that he arrest may well involve serious danger. In a county that adjoins mine, there was, on average, a meth lab "bust " every thirty seven hours last year, and the occupants have almost always been armed and have kept dogs for protection. It would not be reasonable for an arresting officer to take the risk that the dog just might not constitute a danger in the heat of the situation.

Last week, two deputy United Stated Marshals and a city police officer were shot when they served a warrant for the arrest of a man suspected of narcotics crimes. One of the marshals and the suspect died.

"Above the law"? No. A civilian would have had no business going into that residence with a weapon in the first place; the officers had the duty to do so.

Pigoutultra
March 15, 2011, 05:31 PM
I would like to add that the majority of incidents where a police officer kills a innocent are during SWAT team raids. The military mind-set of the SWAT team makes it difficult to discern between an innocent move from a malicious move. Again due to the mind-set that they are in a war. This is most prevalent in drug raids. This is where the SWAT team is used the most. I would have thought that the SWAT team would be called for busting a warehouse full of drugs or for ending a hostage situation, but they are constantly used for the execution of search warrants on houses where not a single person inside has shown any evidence of being "armed & dangerous". And the worst of all, No-Knock Raids. This is where they don't even announce that they are about to execute a search warrant, but just burst in and tell everyone to get down on the ground. I don't blame people for reacting as they would if they were getting robbed. You can't expect there to be a good outcome to a situation where everyone is on high alert and has an itchy trigger finger, if they see anything in someone's hand they are trained to assume it is a weapon and shoot to kill. These actions are done within seconds after entry and are done without first taking in the situation in order to have an appropriate response.

This article lists several incidents that should not have happened the way they happened, yet nothing was done about it.
http://www.seattleweekly.com/1999-11-03/news/license-to-kill/

swagner89
March 15, 2011, 05:55 PM
These SWAT raids are getting out of control. 4.5 per day, according to reason.com:

http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/01/45-swat-raids-per-day

these raids are done with poor intelligence, flimsy evidence, and little planning or restraint. the results are far too often that innocent people and pets get killed over inconsequential reasons.

we dont need this over-reaching police state trend. gotta shed light on it before it gets farther out of control.

ATBackPackin
March 15, 2011, 06:09 PM
Police are human. To err is to be human. I get it! I truly do.

My problem is when I read these articles where it was a case of bad information or mistaken address (which does happen) and they go in like a Seal team. Then they shoot someone because the homeowner thought it was intruders and had a weapon, or where a member of the team shoots someone because they thought a t-shirt was a gun.

Or they have the right address and the right person, but after a flash bang the suspect is left dazed and confused they get shot because they didn't instantly comply with the officer. Their excuse is always, "I thought they were going for a weapon" when there was none.

It's tragic. It was a grave mistake. It was a tragic mistake. So what does the city do? Do they apologize? Sometimes. Do they pay for the damages? Not unless you pay 10 times the amount to fix your home in lawyers fees. Do they compensate you for your loss of a loved one? Not if they can help it. And if you have pets and the police come in like that, you can guarantee that they are dead. Why? Because they were in their home where they belong.


That's what bothers me. Society tells me if I make a mistake, be a man and step up. Admit it and take your punishment like a good person does. However if they make a mistake, it seems like they want to sweep it under the rug like it never happened.

I'm not bashing police here, please don't take it that way. I always give respect to LE unless they have proven they don't deserve it. I agree that nearly all LE are extremely hard working individuals trying to make a difference. Nearly every police officer I have ever met was extremely reasonable, fair, and well tempered. It just irks me when mistakes like this are made and the city doesn't do anything because they don't want to give out compensation or the bad publicity.

Shawn

Big Bill
March 15, 2011, 06:13 PM
This thread is BS and should have been closed. The OP wrongfully speculates without offering any real concrete evidence.

Justin
March 15, 2011, 06:20 PM
This really has more to do with the realm of politics than the realm of discussing firearms and shooting.

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