Perhaps, if we want to stay safe, we should listen to the advice of a police officer who said “… just do what I tell you to do.”
In a recent OpEd piece, Erwin Chemerinsky, noted legal scholar and Dean of the University of California, Irvine Law School, suggests that the police are, with rare exception, never held responsible for shooting a civilian, even if death results. The Court has said, “…a government officer can be held liable only if ‘every reasonable official’ would have known that his conduct was unlawful…” Likewise, the local government which employs the police is not liable for prosecutorial misconduct
In a different opinion, Chemerinsky suggests that civilian oversight is important. In fact, since the Court seemingly will not protect our citizens, we need to change the culture and attitude of the police on the street and reduce the potential for wayward or negligent actions on their part. This can be done, but only if there is civilian oversight setting the rules, following the rules and enforcing the rules before any issue gets to the court.
In another type of matter, a well-known entertainment lawyer, Milton Everett Olin Jr., was riding his bike and hit by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s car. The cyclist died. In California, it is illegal to drive and text at the same time. It seems, however, as noted above, that law enforcement personnel are governed by different standards. The officer was using his work computer rather than a personal electronic device, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has decided. Because he was using a work computer and was otherwise acting lawfully at the time, the District Attorney says he could not prove even the lesser charge of criminal negligence.
Full disclosure: I am a cyclist. The police motto, “to protect and serve,” has some holes in it when the enforcers can commit acts with impunity that, if committed by others, would result in harsh punishment. This is a civil event. What must the citizens of Ferguson think who know, that even if charged and convicted of a criminal offense, the officer involved will never be punished based on the Court’s rulings.