Timing of Investigations
A criminal investigation typically begins immediately after a deadly force incident. Investigative results are collected and presented to prosecutors who determine whether or not charges should be lodged or whether information should be presented to a grand jury.
At the same time, or after the criminal investigation, an internal affairs component of the affected department may conduct an administrative investigation of the event and the affected officer’s actions.
Options for civil claims will often be explored by a complainant, usually the object of police force, or their family. The timing for bringing these claims is based on a number of factors and is ultimately up to the litigants and their counsel. It’s not uncommon for those subject to police force to file suit for outrageous damage amounts. Those claims will often be used to leverage settlements against the municipality.
Some factors affecting litigation risk:
Facts of the case determined after a fair and impartial review of all the evidence.
False narratives based on untruthful witness testimony, such as in Ferguson Missouri on August 9, 2014, when Officer Darren Wilson, a white officer, was involved in the use of deadly force resulting in the death of Michael Brown, an African American inflamed the community and others and gave rise to the “Hands up, don’t shoot” movement. Based on the false narrative, some in the community insisted Officer Wilson be quickly charged with murder. Protests began and, over the course of several days, resulted in property damage, personal injury, arson and looting. No charges were brought.
Political expediency such as was witnessed after the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. On April 12, 2015, Gray, a 25 year-old African American, was chased and arrested by Baltimore police. While being transported in a police wagon, Gray became unresponsive and was taken to a trauma center with spinal cord injuries. He died a few days later, leading to rioting, arson, looting and assaults on police sent to control the situation. The Baltimore State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, in apparent disregard of facts being gathered in an ongoing investigation by Baltimore Police Department detectives, announced indictments against six officers. She did so loudly, proclaiming at a press event, “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for “No justice, no peace.”
Mosby’s rush to judgment, whether to help quell rioting, or to punish police officers for perceived injustices of the past, or to elevate her own public profile, should be a lesson to others to follow the facts, rather than to put career, self-aggrandizement, or other cynical motives ahead of truth and justice.
* March 2017, by Stephen Thayer on behalf of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. This document is provided as a summary overview. Contact your attorney for detailed guidance. Also, refer to related documents on our website, www.policedefense.org