If our understanding of the human nature has taught us anything it is that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Acting with no fear of repercussion is an absolute power. In order to check this absolute power it is essential to institute an independent prosecutor procedure for instances of officer involved shootings. An effective independent prosecutor could bring a sense of accountability to law enforcement that will lead to increase trust and decreased tensions with communities of color.
A former New York state Chief Judge once stated that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” Looking at our Nation’s state of affairs, it is safe to say that a police officer is nothing like a ham sandwich. While numbers can be boring, in this instance they are illuminating and staggering.
- With respects getting a grand jury to indict à they imply it’s easy to indict, because it is. The numbers bear this out.
- In 2010, out of 162,00 cases that U.S. attorneys prosecuted in federal court- they failed to return a grand jury indictment a grand total of 11 time, which equates to .00006790%.
When it comes to prosecutors and police officers, however, these numbers are NEARLY REVERSED. Exact, nationwide figures are very difficult to nail down since data on officer-involved shootings is very difficult to find, as it is not mandated to track by any agency.
There are some individual examples are able to give a window into these statistics.
- In a particular Texas county, a grand jury has not indicted a Houston police officer since 2004.
- In Dallas the picture painted is nearly as incomprehensible. In a review of 81 officers involved shooting over a 4-year period, only 1 returned an indictment.
- According to a fairly comprehensive study conducted by Bowling Green State University, of the thousands of officer-involved shootings between 2005-2015, only 54 officers have been charged.
These shocking numbers paint a clear picture of two separate and distinct legal processes, one for law enforcement officers, and another, much less lenient process for the rest of us.
The conflicts of interest in these situations are far too much to ignore. Prosecutors work hand-in-glove with law enforcement officers on a daily basis. These officers gather the evidence prosecutors need for convictions. This team-like partnership inevitably leads to a conflict of interest when the defendant is an officer. An independent prosecutor is an essential check on police powers, and our entire government is built upon a system of appropriate checks and balances. Without this vital check justice will never be served.