Police misconduct
Many believe any discussion of police misconduct must first begin with acknowledging the degree of difficulty of this profession, and the exemplary nature and heroic sacrifices demonstrated by the vast majority of our nation’s 900,000 peace officers. That said, at least 10,000 civil rights complaints are filed for police misconduct each year, yet the total prevalence of this crime remains uncertain. Complaints of police brutality and abuse often arise from traffic stops and street encounters. Critics claim people of color experience the abuse of police power much more often than their peers. A recent survey claims that one in four young African American men report to be mistreated by police in any given month. From Rodney King’s beating to Eric Garner’s chokehold, many say video recordings are the best way to bring police misconduct to justice, providing both indisputable evidence of abuse, as well as confirmation of the proper use of force. Cell phone and police cameras may also provide the greatest deterrent to police misconduct. Several recent studies report that public complaints of police misconduct have dropped between 40% and 60%, and in some cases up to 80%, in cities where officers wear body cameras. However, others believe cameras are not the only answer to our police misconduct problem, saying grand juries very rarely indict police officers for killing citizens regardless of evidence. They claim local prosecutors have an inherent conflict of interest when deciding whether to indict a police officer because of their close working relationship with police departments developed while fighting everyday crime. Advocates claim they are reluctant to earnestly prosecute officers and jeopardize this relationship. They say independent prosecutors should present cases of alleged police misconduct to grand juries, not local prosecutors.

Many believe some members of our current generation of peace officers are more willing and likely to use lethal force due to the militarization of their departments since 9/11. In addition to the death of Mr. Garner, other such examples include the death of James Boyd, an unarmed, non-threatening homeless man shot in the back multiple times by several Albuquerque police officers; the death of unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown, his arms likely raised above his head when shot multiple times by a Ferguson police officer; the Beavercreek Walmart police shooting death of John Crawford III, talking on his phone while holding a BB gun the store had for sale; and 12-year old Tamir Rice, holding a pellet gun and killed within 2 seconds of the arrival of a Cleveland police officer judged unfit for duty 2 years earlier. Advocates claim these cases are only a very small fraction of the several hundred similar police shootings which occur each year. They say it seems that “multiple shots by multiple officers” has replaced police attempts to de-escalate situations, shoot someone with a Tasar, or in the leg. One recent study revealed that about one in eight victims shot to death by police since 2012 was mentally ill or in severe mental distress. Few police officers are disciplined for suspicious shootings and indictments are extremely rare.

Normally, the use of lethal force is authorized as a progressive series of actions, referred to as the “use of force continuum.” It broadly limits the use of force to what is reasonable and necessary for the situation. The use of lethal force is only supposed to be used as a last resort and to prevent the loss of life. Seattle’s P.D. has recently adopted a new use of force policy in which peace officers are expected to de-escalate potentially violent situations and issue warnings wherever appropriate. All uses of force are required to be reported and documented, and all officers will be issued at least one non lethal weapon such as a Taser, baton or pepper spray to be appropriately used under the department’s new guidelines. However, guidelines governing the use of excessive and lethal force are not the same for all police departments.

Pending Legislation:
H.R.59 - Build TRUST Act of 2015
H.R.1102 - Police Accountability Act of 2015

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Poll Opening Date
May 21, 2020
Poll Closing Date
May 27, 2020

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