In the state where unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot to death on the streets of Ferguson in August, Missouri allows officers to make judgment calls on whether to kill someone.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that police have no constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, including a woman in Colorado who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband, according to The New York Times. The decision, with an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia and dissents from Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, overturned a ruling by a federal appeals court in Colorado. The appeals court had permitted a lawsuit to proceed against Castle Rock for the failure of the police to respond to a woman’s pleas for help after her estranged husband violated a protective order by kidnapping their three young daughters … whom he eventually killed.
In 1985, Memphis police shot and killed 15-year-old Edward Garner, who was unarmed after committing a burglary. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a police officer, moving forward, could use deadly force only if he “has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” The ruling, according to multiple reports, required that the use of force be “objectively reasonable.” How this reasonableness should be determined was established in a 1989 case, Graham v. Connor, by the severity of the crime, whether the suspect is resisting or trying to escape and, above all, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others. In truth, it has become nearly impossible to tell apart the subjective snap judgments of panic-fueled police officers. American courts universally defer to the law enforcement officer’s own personal assessment of the threat at the time.
On Law and Order and other television shows and movies, police internal affairs aggressively pursue officers who are suspected of wrongdoing. But that’s Hollywood. In real life, according to Jason Leventhal, a former assistant district attorney on Staten Island, to thenation.com: “(Internal Affairs) will never, ever credit the claim of police abuse. They hide witnesses. They push witnesses around. The only time I cooperate with them is when I know I have their hands tied behind their back.” So, cops, in general, have no fear of repercussions for their actions.
In New York, the use of a chokehold — like the one that killed Eric Garner in July when he was corralled around his neck by officer Daniel Pantaleo — is not prohibited by law. But within departmental regulations, it is forbidden. Worse, a violation of this regulation, even if you kill someone as Pantaleo did, earns the cop a departmental censure, loss of vacation days or leads to the officer getting fired. But the consequences tend to be minor when compared to the crime. New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board may dock vacation days from police officers, but that clearly is no deterrent from misbehavior. “I don’t have any faith in the CCRB or the Internal Affairs Bureau or any other internal mechanism,” Ron Kuby, a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer in New York, told Chase Mada of thenation.com. Civilian complaints rarely even get in the way of an individual officer’s career.
source: atlantablackstar.com by Curtis Bunn