Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Indicting a police officer is uncommon occurrence

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 11:32 PM
Demonstrators clash with police, in front of a man who injured his leg during the protest in Berkeley, California, on the weekend.


At least 400 people are killed by police officers in the United States every year, and while the

circumstances of each case are different, one thing remains constant: In only a handful of instances do grand juries issue an indictment, concluding that the officer should face criminal charges.

Successful prosecutions generally involve officers who have lied about what they've done, tried to cover up their actions or used excessive force to inflict punishment.

Even as people took to the streets to protest the failure of a grand jury to indict an officer who used a fatal chokehold on an unarmed man in New York City, a grand jury in South Carolina voted to bring murder charges against Richard Combs, a small-town police chief who fatally shot an unarmed man who had come to Town Hall to contest a traffic ticket.

Earlier this year, a grand jury in North Carolina indicted a police officer for fatally shooting a man who was knocking on doors looking for help after he drove his car off the road.

Elderly victim

And a police officer in South Carolina was indicted in August on a charge of misconduct in office after he shot a 68-year-old man who had failed to pull over for a traffic stop.

History shows that grand jurors may have less sympathy for officers who are guilty of more than just poor judgement during a crisis.

Police who get caught lying tend to get charged. So do those who use force to inflict punishment rather than to protect themselves, or who instigate physical confrontations for

reasons that seem personal, rather than professional.