Jason D. Lamm Attorney at Law A Boutique Criminal Defense Firm Serving Phoenix

Do Police Get Special Treatment in Officer Involved Shootings?

Shootings happen every day. It’s a sad reality of our society.

But more and more, not a week goes by without hearing about an officer involved shooting. For every one you hear about, though, there are several more that you don’t. While some officer involved shootings receive media attention, largely because a bystander with a cell phone took video of the incident, you never hear about the vast majority of them.

Who Investigates Officer Involved Shootings?

Most large police departments have a dedicated group of detectives who investigate officer involved shootings at a criminal level. These highly experienced detectives start by walking the police officer who was involved in the shooting through the crime scene and taking a statement from them. The investigators then try to determine, and more often than not conclude, if the shooting was justified, i.e. done in self-defense.

The possible outcomes of the criminal investigation could include:

  • A finding that the shooting was justified
  • A finding that the shooting was not justified

If the shooting was not justified, the officer could face criminal charges such as:

An administrative investigation typically follows the criminal investigation and determines whether or not any police policy violations occurred. Even if an officer involved shooting is justified, the officer can still face administrative sanctions that could include:

  • Termination
  • Suspension
  • Reprimand
  • Demotion

Why Are So Few Police Officers Criminally Charged?

The reality is that most officer-involved shootings are found to be justified, either because they are objectively justified based on the facts, or because criminal investigators gave the officer the benefit of the doubt. Face it, police take care of their own.

What people don’t realize is a tremendous factor as to why so few police officers are criminally charged for officer-involved shootings is the fact that criminal charges equate to an acknowledgment of civil liability on the part of the city and agency which employ the officer. In other words, when an officer is charged, it’s almost a guarantee that the city will be paying out big bucks to settle a lawsuit. Should that factor guide an ‘objective’ criminal investigation? Of course not – but it does.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an officer-related shooting, you need the help of an experienced and skilled Phoenix criminal defense attorney on your side. Pursue the justice you deserve and contact the law office of Jason D. Lamm today.