The Difficulty Of Convicting Police Lies In Systemic Hurdles

Stop Police Brutality sign
William Anderson
July 8, 2020

Over 99% of the known killings by police officers since 2013 have not brought criminal charges. There are a lot of reasons prosecuting cops rarely happens. The system is set up for them in ways we have to understand in order to make a difference.

The law protects police. “Objective reasonableness” means cops have near-complete freedom to defend their use of deadly force. And “qualified immunity” means it’s almost impossible to sue a cop for their actions. This incredible power by law means they have almost no accountability.

But there are other problems too.

The jury was hung in the shooting of Walter Scott. No one was held accountable for the death of Freddie Gray. The filmed beating of Rodney King took a federal conviction to get even a light sentence. These cases matter for a reason.

Juries are frequently sympathetic to officers. Judges toss out cases and give lenient sentences. And prosecutors rarely pursue charges that reflect the severity of police crimes. All this makes it clear we have a very big job ahead of us.

The criminal justice system is set up to protect the police, and reforms like training, civilian review boards, and more funding for police have NOT helped. The entire system itself is a problem, and until that’s addressed, cops will continue to get a slap on the wrist!

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