Police Officers have a dangerous job and are expected to run toward danger, make split second decisions, and risk their lives to help others. The decisions they make can have life altering consequences. The question is whether they should be held to the same legal standard as an average citizen when they make a poor decision in the line of duty. Washington enacted the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.
Police officers cannot be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without evil intent. Proving malice or evil intent makes it virtually impossible to prosecute an officer even if he committed a wrongful killing. Fatal police shootings have been determined unjustified but not sufficient to prosecute under the evil intent standard. Remember John T. Williams and Charleena Lyles? Only one officer has been prosecuted in the last decade in Washington State for an unjustified killing and that resulted in an acquittal.
On the other hand, the legal standard for the average citizen is much different. A person can be prosecuted for murder if they acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. The Government does not need to prove whether the person had evil intent or not. Citizens can assert self-defense and use deadly force if they believe they are facing grave danger. Why shouldn’t law enforcement officers have the same standard? Why must the State prove an additional element of evil intent for an officer? Unfortunately, if the law is not changed, we will continue to have officers recklessly shooting at a fleeing vehicle that is not endangering anyone.
Watch the video. The driver attempted to run the officer over and has been charged with multiple felonies. The officers had a right to discharge their firearms when the car drove toward them. But, the officers are being investigated for misconduct because they continued to shoot at the fleeing vehicle when it was no longer posing a threat to law enforcement officers or the public. Was their conduct reasonable or not?