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Here's what I'd like to see to deal with the issue of police using deadly force when it apparently wasn't necessary. Create a database of incidents, and Use Of Force review boards. I'm undecided about whether there should be a national board or one per state, but the key is to get them out of the control of the police forces that would be involved.

The boards would involve every incident where there was a use of deadly force (whether the target survived or not) or where there was a complaint. They would review body cam videos, videos taken by witnesses, witness statements, security cameras, and so forth.

After review, the boards would issue a report with a number of possible findings. Here are the findings I've got off the top of my head, there might be others justified:

(1) Action was justified. The actions were taken due to the subject showing an intent to harm the officer or others and the only option to stop the harm was the one taken. This will presumably be the most common result.

(2) Honest mistake. The officer believed that there was an intent to harm, and believed the action was required - but in retrospect, they were wrong. No punishment, but a record noted in the database. If an officer gets more than a certain number of such mistakes, then actions will be taken, up to and including permanently being barred from law enforcement or security jobs.

(3) Reckless. The officer had may have believed there was an intent to harm, but the actions taken were excessive given the situation and no attempt to de-escalate the situation. The wild firing into the apartment of Breonna Taylor would, based on public action, fall into this category. In addition to noting the record in the database, the board can order a suspension without pay, removal of the officer's qualified immunity (they were not acting in accordance to the requirements of a police officer, so don't get the immunity), or in extreme cases, prosecution.

(4) Abusive. The officer abused his or her authority and took action without justification. The board refers for prosecution, and the officer is either suspended without pay or barred from future employment in security or law enforcement.

There will be methods to appeal the decisions. Lying to the board or in public statements, or failure to use a body cam, will be viewed as reasons to increase seriousness of conclusion or for punishments.

Law enforcement organizations are encouraged to do their own reviews and take action as they see fit. Their reviews will probably be faster than the board. But it's clear that we need an independent voice that is not subject to the thin blue line or police unions.

Whole raft of details, such as how the board members are picked to ensure fairness and methods to appeal the decision. And there will be some who will still be unhappy when cases are not referred to prosecution. But there will be a uniform method of review that takes misuse of authority as a serious matter.


Posted on October 16, 2020, 8:51 am

Donald Brown

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