Sunday, July 10, 2016

One Simple Change to the Law Could Make Prosecuting Killer Cops Easier

The Intercept describes One Simple Change to the Law Could Make Prosecuting Killer Cops Easier

Currently, police abuse is subject largely to one federal statute enacted in 1866: Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 242, which punishes anyone who ‘willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.’

The problem is that the statute ‘has nothing to do on its face with police officers or police violence,’ said former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights William Yeomans. ‘It’s about deprivation of rights. So what you’re actually proving in these cases is that the officer acted with the intent to [deny the victim rights].’

This willfulness standard makes it difficult to prosecute police officers. ‘The government has to show beyond a reasonable doubt the officer acted with willful attempt to deny the victim a right,’ he said."

He suggested a solution. Congress could lower the intent standard to “something like if the officer acted with reckless disregard.” That way, “you don’t have to actually show that the officer intended to use more force than was necessary. … If the officer recklessly used more force than was necessary, he could then be prosecuted.”

I'm no expert, but it seems like a place to start a conversation...

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