POLICE

These Five Systems Often Protect Cops From Criminal Accountability

New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan explains five specific reasons why police officers guilty of criminal misconduct often go unpunished

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While many look at the gruesome video depicting George Floyd's death and see an open and shut criminal case, it's not always that easy, says New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan. Dewan cites five specific reasons why police officers guilty of criminal misconduct often go unpunished.

  • Police Policing Themselves: There's an internal system of police policing cops that runs the gamut from deciding if the officers actually violated policy to recommending punishment, if any. "It's the fox guarding the hen house," Dewan says.
  • The Appeal Process: Because police officers can appeal any discipline, even well intentioned police chiefs looking to root out bad apples often find it's a difficult task to manage. "Because if they try to terminate someone, it will be appealed and a lot of times they just get their jobs back," says Dewan.
  • Toothless Civilian Review Boards: Civilian review boards are typically not trusted by the public and often their findings are merely recommendations not followed by the police department.
  • Strong Police Unions: The larger the force the more powerful the police union, which is often obstructive in effecting change and holding police officers accountable.
  • Difficulty Holding Police Criminally Accountable: Because of the inherent dangers in their jobs, police officers have built in protections not afforded to the general public when it comes to criminal liability. "When you see a video like the George Floyd death a lot of people just think 'Well, obviously (there's been a crime committed,') but when you're in a court of law officers have all sort of protections because they have a difficult job and have to make split second decisions in dangerous situations."
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