The rip­ple ef­fect of po­lice rul­ing

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY OPIN­ION -

Re “Chief’s video up­sets po­lice panel,” June12

As the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Com­mis­sion, I am disappointed in the cur­rent com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to find the use of force in the Ezell Ford case “out of pol­icy.” Its de­ci­sion is based solely on the tac­tics em­ployed by the of­fi­cers and, in the mem­bers’ opin­ion, the lack of prob­a­ble cause to stop Ford in the first place.

Of­fi­cers in the field must make im­me­di­ate de­ci­sions as to prob­a­ble cause. Most of the time they are right, and on few oc­ca­sions they are wrong. The whole field of prob­a­ble cause is al­ways shift­ing, with prose­cu­tors and judges con­tin­u­ally chang­ing the rules.

To say that an of­fi­cer who makes a mis­take in stop­ping a sus­pect must then be found “out of pol­icy” for his use of force is lu­di­crous. What should that of­fi­cer do? Not de­fend him­self be­cause some­one might sec­ond-guess him?

This de­ci­sion could re­sult in two pos­si­ble out­comes. Of­fi­cers will stop ini­ti­at­ing field con­tacts as they have doubts as to whether they will be held li­able for a bad de­ci­sion, as is now hap­pen­ing in Bal­ti­more, or an of­fi­cer will put him­self in jeop­ardy as he hes­i­tates when his life is in dan­ger be­cause he is con­cerned about his tac­tics.

Ei­ther out come would be dis­as­trous to the safety of the city and of­fi­cers.

Joseph Gunn


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