Don't Count On Suing The Cop Who Wrongfully Shoots You

Submitted by: muert 10 months ago in News & Politics

The US Supreme Court unanimously decided that a cop can't be sued if a they shoot or kill a suspect without having heard other officers issue a warning. In other words, if a cop shows after other cops have already established some intel on the suspect (he's armed, isn't armed, on drugs, etc.), and the cop shoots said suspect, the cop is automatically in the clear on any charges.

Unless of course, there are prior cases of the exact same situation, where someone suited and won.  And if you look hard enough every case can be different. Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter give his analysis on some of the possible outcomes in this Supreme court ruling.
There are 21 comments:
Male 530
"Returning fire" is what the headline will read.
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Male 1,933
Until any of you have actually been "in the shoes" of officers in a situation like this, your opinion is invalid. Yes, it is easy for us to play "Monday morning quarterback" and judge their actions, but have we actually been there? Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to issue a blanket defense and say that every police involved shooting was warranted, but its hard for us to accurately judge from our position. I know that for me, personally, if I were in a similar situation to some of the recent police involved shootings, I feel that I would have pulled the trigger, too. Keep in mind, these men and women are going into dangerous situations, fear for their lives and the lives of the general public, and, in at least some of the cases, have been given erroneous information. If dispatch tells you that the suspect is armed with a gun, most likely because thats what people on the scene told them, then you will go in with the assumption that they have a gun. If you see something in the suspects hand, even if its a bottle of water, your brain will perceive that bottle of water as a gun, because thats what its expecting to see. This phenomenon, called "confirmation bias", is very common. Your friend buys a new car, and tells you in a text that it is blue, though it is actually green. Upon first seeing the car, you will actually see it as blue, even if only for a split second, because your brain has been told that it is. The police incidents work the same way; the cop was told that there was a gun by someone they have been trained to trust, either dispatchers or fellow officers, so he or she sees one. Please, stop jumping to conclusions about every police involved shooting, and judging them at face value, then put yourselves in their shoes. Also, keep in mind that if the officer did mistakenly shoot someone, they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.
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Male 797
whosaidwhat 'Until any of you have actually been "in the shoes" of  "receiving end" in a situation like this, your opinion is invalid.' Can anyone say this to you, if not why can you dismiss the "Monday morning quarterbacks"? 

You make fair points, however I'm often concerned that people make these arguments and completely dismiss the one who is shot is also in a bad situation, and the fact that one of them is professionally "trained" for these interactions and the other is not...
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Male 1,933
mischeif954 I'm not dismissing the "Monday morning quarterbacks", just playing devil's advocate and trying to get them to see that there are two sides to every story. 
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Male 797
whosaidwhat "your opinion is invalid." seems like a dismissal. Yes, there are two sides to every story, and we've seen this story many times and have seen the same ending many times, accountability isn't a swear word.
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Male 1,933
mischeif954 You do have a point about the statement "your opinion is invalid", but keep in mind, that that works the other way, too. I made the statement the way I did because everyone immediately jumps on the police in these situations, and blames them for the whole thing. We don't see too many reports of things going the other way (cop being hurt by a suspect), because they are under-reported, and downplayed, but I would say they same thing in those cases: if you haven't been in the "suspects" shoes, your opinion would be invalid. Unless the subject hurt the officer due to being under the influence; that is just plain their fault, period. Isn't it interesting, though? A cop shoots a suspect, and we hear about it constantly for weeks. A suspect shoots a cop, and we are lucky if we hear about it for more than a few days.
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Male 797
whosaidwhat I find that interesting that you find that interesting and frankly feel like that's a huge part of the problem, correct me if I'm reaching. Cop gets shot and wounded/injured, there's a financial/support system to help deal with the loss, there's a vast majority of support from peers, coworkers, national, and local citizens to the victims and their family all of this as it should be. If the suspect is found as they usually are, they are usually arrested, charged, and convicted and a jury easily finds them guilty again as they should be. That is not weeks worthy of news we know what's going to happen, there is no debate. Nobody feels the need to play 'devil's advocate' for criminals who kill cops or some need to balance the backlash for when everyone 'jumps on the criminal'.

On the contrary if it's an unarmed citizen that's a victim their families need to figure it out, there is a race to sanitize or assassinate the victims character for weeks when a cop is killed do they go through their hs pictures or publicize their misconduct reports , if any?, there is no immediate arrest though we know who killed the victim/suspect, but historically research can tell us it's likely not going to be a conviction. You've been killed, you're moral standing is now being killed, and the populace is split, there's people who already start off eyerolling here 'they' go complaining again like someone getting killed inconveniences them, there's people who feel like they need to play 'devils advocate', hence the difference in news cycles, controversy sells.
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Male 8,063
whosaidwhat Yea and the person killed by police recklessness will be dead, but that poor officer will have to deal with the fact he killed someone.   If I accidentally kill someone with my car I won't be shown the luxury of not being thrown in jail for manslaughter.  Giving power to a badge and letting it become a shield against law is a problem.  I'm not saying Cops have it easy, but until police are held to account for the bad cops then nothing changes.
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Male 1,933
normalfreak2 I absolutely agree with you about the "bad cops". I'm certainly not trying to say that all police shootings are "justified", but "justification" is often a matter of perspective. My point was simply that people should put themselves in the officer's position, and see if their definition of "justification" might not change a bit.
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Male 525
If I am understanding the courts ruling right I don't see it as bad thing necessarily. If a cop shows up after the initial contact he is still required to act to protect his fellow officers. He has to assume the other officers followed procedure, but he may not have time to ask for details before he acts. So holding him responsible for the misconduct of the original officers would not be right.
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Male 3,275
Civil police should not be held to a lower standard - which is what rulings like this promote.
Civil police, people trained, given power and authority - not to mention arms, should be held to a higher standard - the failing of which should have clear, meaningful consequences, consistently applied.
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Male 1,197
insaneai That doesn't sound like the officer that fired the shots was given intel by other officers that the guy may be armed though, so this ruling would not affect that case at all.
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Male 1,891
waldo863 In context of the title, my rebuttal stands.  In comparison between cases, I agree there are material differences.

In the case cited in this post, it appears to me that the officers were unlawful aggressors hiding behind their badge (Once they threatened to breach without a warrant or probable cause, they gave up all legal protection in my opinion).  As such, the lot of them should be charged with murder just as you or I would if we committed a crime together where someone died as a result of the crime.
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Male 1,197
I mean, I kinda get it.  In a case where another officer, whom you are trained to trust, and in reality do have to trust your life with, tells you that man over there is armed, are you really responsible, or is the guy who told you he was armed responsible?

That said, I do think someone should be held accountable.  Default should be the person who pulled the trigger.  But if it's your job to go in to dangerous situations and someone, possibly a superior, tells you that this situation is more dangerous than most and this guy over there is likely to shoot you, I can understand how that would change the mentality of someone from, "Let's find out what's going on," to "If I don't shoot first I'm gonna die."

The biggest problem I see is that we already see police "looking out for each other."  So now if an officer shoots someone, he just has to get another officer that was there to say, "Yeah, I told him that the guy had something that looked like a weapon."  Now you can't hold the guy who shot him accountable and as far as I know there is no way to hold the guy who said he may be armed accountable either.  There needs to be some way to hold people accountable.

As said, as for who to hold accountable, it's difficult.  By default though, it should be the guy who pulled the trigger.  If this was done, every time, without fail, more officers would think twice before pulling the trigger.  This makes that entirely impossible, and leaves no other person to hold accountable either.  If you don't hold people accountable for their actions, they do whatever the fuck they want.

In short, I get what they were trying to accomplish, but I don't think it's the right way.  It leaves a massive way out.  Don't shoot anyone until back-up arrives, let the back-up do the shooting, and we can just say we told the back-up that we saw a weapon, whether we did or not.
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Male 8,689
Yeah, that article isn't biased at all.

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Male 562
megrendel I originally commented on his bias in my remarks on the article.  Then I figured it would be blindingly obvious to anyone who read his last couple of paragraphs and let it go.  Bias aside, the important questing is "Is he right?"  Has this ruling made police less accountable for their actions?

Ack, NF2 beat me to it.
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Male 8,063
megrendel EVERY OPINION IS BIASED.  How about instead of stating the obvious you find something the Professor stated that you disagree with or find incorrect and why? As someone who clerked for a Supreme Court Judge and is a sitting Professor at Harvard,  What did he get wrong?  He's a Constitutional and International Law Professor WITH Experience, you are a guy on the internet in the comment section of a website with nothing substantial to add to this.  Just trying to keep you honest.
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Male 8,689
normalfreak2 I disagree with the entire premise of the article and the misleading title of this thread.  The Court found that when an officer arrives on a scene and someone starts firing at him, it's perfectly alright for him to defend himself.  

There IS NO 'wrongful shooting' in this case, so the basis of the article and the title are false.   The officers had been fired upon.  Self-defense was warranted. 

Plus, the court did not create new findings, they found established law did not warrant a lawsuit.

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Male 5,195
megrendel This exchange was great. NormalFreak wanted reasons; Megrendel brought them; no profanity or insults were exchanged. Thank you both for making IAB a better place. :)
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Male 8,689
squrlz4ever Man, I must be slipping.  I should have thrown in a "your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."
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