On this very sad anniversary of the senseless police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, we are reminded of two subsequent after-effects/events: the horrendous ambush of three Baton Rouge police officers 12 days later; and, to date, the frustrating filed against Sterling’s shooters, which is nothing if not typical. As the Center for Justice & Democracy in a new fact sheet, a 2015 Washington Post investigation found that “Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged, …. Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.”
On the flip side of this heartbreaking cycle of violence comes another terrible ambush killing of a police officer, this time in New York City. As the New York Times , “A two-time convict who has voiced anger at law enforcement officers in the past shot and killed a New York City officer through a police vehicle window in the Bronx early Wednesday, in what the police commissioner called an 'unprovoked attack.’”
This grave situation is crying out for meaningful solutions. Unfortunately, some DC politicians are responding in the worst possible way. Their idea is legislation called the “Back the Blue Act,” which was recently the subject of a scathing post by Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), a 34-year veteran of the Baltimore Police and Maryland State Police Departments who runs Law Enforcement Action Partnership, which “seeks criminal justice solutions that improve public safety.” Indeed, for those who may be pointing to today’s NYC tragedy with a “war on cops” narrative to advance this bill, ”:
Unfortunately, I know the pain of losing a close comrade to street violence as well as anyone. During my 34-year police career in Maryland, I lost my close friend, Corporal Ed Toatley, and numerous other friends who wore the blue. Today, as Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, I remain committed to improving safety for my fellow police officers. For that reason, I oppose the “Back the Blue Act” introduced by Sen. (R-Texas) and Rep. (R-Texas).…
My colleagues and I know that legislation intended to increase safety can in fact have the opposite result for officers on the street. Back the Blue would not deter individuals from assaulting police just by making a federal case out of these attacks. Instead, the bill would make us less safe and less effective by worsening what is already the greatest threat to policing today: the downward spiral of police-community relations.
As he notes, federalizing crimes connected with assaults on local police officers, and replacing “case-by-case decisions made by local judges, reflecting the community’s values, with one-size-fits-all sentences” will do absolutely nothing good and will make matters worse for everyone. Yet that’s not the only thing wrong with this bill. As criminal justice Washington Post blogger, Radley Balko recently ,
[P]erhaps the most disturbing part of the bill is the new restrictions it puts on suing police officers for constitutional violations. As we’ve discussed here several times before, it’s already extremely difficult to even get in front of a jury with a claim against law enforcement, much less win an award. Police officers , which requires you to show that not only were your rights violated but also a reasonable police officer should have known that the actions in question were a violation of the Constitution. Under this bill, even if you can show all of that, if the police can show that the violation and resulting injuries were “incurred in the course of, or as a result of, or . . . related to, conduct by the injured party that, more likely than not, constituted a felony or a crime of violence . . . (including any deprivation in the course of arrest or apprehension for, or the investigation, prosecution, or adjudication of, such an offense),” then the officers are liable only for out-of-pocket expenses. What’s more, the bill would bar plaintiffs from recovering attorneys fees in such cases.
This means that if the police raid your 米兜彩票电脑版 with a search warrant for pot and shoot you dead, even if your family can show that the shooting was unlawful, the police would be liable only for something like funeral expenses if they could show that “more likely than not,” you had sold some pot, or at some point possessed a large enough quantity of the drug to merit a felony charge. In some jurisdictions, merely resisting arrest is a felony. In theory, this could mean that under a scenario in which the police falsely arrest you, you resist, and they then severely beat you, if they could show that the beating was the result of your resisting, not the false arrest, you could be barred from suing for anything other than the cost of treating your injuries. If the resisting charge could be filed as an assault, that’s already a felony in most jurisdictions, and even where it isn’t, under this bill it would become a federal felony.
As the Center for Justice & Democracy recently in its new fact sheet, preventing civil lawsuits will also make us all less safe, because “successful civil lawsuits filed by victims have been a critical tool for police departments to identify and remedy potentially widespread abuses.… Indeed, lawsuits can have a direct and positive impact on law enforcement, with settlements in individual cases leading to better training, safer policies and overall better practices.”
For plenty of recent examples, go . And then, add this one to the list of bills to resist!