Critics say that Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey never charges police officers in fatal shootings, even in egregious cases. The law is weighted in favor of officers.
If there was ever a police shooting that would bring criminal charges against a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles, the killing of Brendon Glenn looked like it could be the one. The shooting was captured on video. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck issued an unprecedented public call for the officer to be prosecuted. The city paid out $4 million to Glenn’s family. Nearly three years later, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided not to bring charges against Officer Clifford Proctor, marking a rare public clash between two of the L.A. area’s top law enforcement officials, reports the Los Angeles Times. Her decision illustrates how even at a time of intense nationwide scrutiny of police officers, it remains extremely rare to prosecute them for on-duty shootings.
The law is heavily weighted in favor of officers if they reasonably perceived a threat to themselves or others when they opened fire, even if the belief was mistaken. Lacey’s supporters say she calculated she would not win at trial, sparing a police officer the ordeal of unnecessary criminal charges and herself the public humiliation of losing a high-profile case. Her critics say she appeared so intent on clearing the officer that her 83-page memo justifying the decision reads like it was written by a defense lawyer. Since taking office in 2012, Lacey has not brought charges against a police officer for an on-duty shooting. Some experts were concerned by Lacey’s reasoning, saying it might signal to officers that when there is a tussle in close quarters, they could justify opening fire by later claiming the suspect was trying to disarm them. Glenn is the third fatal high-profile police shooting in recent years involving a similar scenario.