Tags: MidPoint | Cheryl Dorsey | Mike Bell | police shootings

Ex-LAPD Sgt.: Deadly Force Cases Need 'Unbiased' Outside Review

By    |   Tuesday, 21 April 2015 05:00 PM

Fatal encounters with police officers must be investigated by an outside body that is independent of the local law enforcement systems in which the deaths occur, say two reform advocates — one a former officer, one the father of a police shooting victim.

Achieving that level of impartiality might require the creation of a federal police force or investigative panel, retired Los Angeles police sergeant Cheryl Dorsey told  "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Tuesday.

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"I believe that we need to really give that some serious consideration because we cannot trust police departments to police themselves," said Dorsey, author of the 2013 memoir "Black & Blue."

Another "MidPoint" guest, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Bell, doubted that America is ready for federal police — "but the country would be ready for a federal monitor" of local policing, he said.

Bell lost his son in a police shooting in 2004, and lobbied for passage of Wisconsin's first-in-the-nation law, adopted in 2014, requiring that such incidents be investigated by an outside authority. He is also calling for a similar arrangement nationally, modeled on federal aviation investigations.

With police conduct under heightened scrutiny in the wake of several highly publicized fatalities, Dorsey agreed that the resulting probes require "someone who doesn't have a dog in the fight."

"We talk about needing an independent prosecutor, someone who doesn't work hand-in-hand with the police department day to day and have relationships that would maybe cause them to not be unbiased in their final reporting," said Dorsey. "This is serious. We're almost a murder a week here of a young person and so we need a clear, unbiased reviewer of facts."

Police shootings caught on video in Oklahoma and South Carolina have led to criminal charges against the respective officers, one a 73-year-old volunteer deputy. In Baltimore, Md., protests followed the death of an arrestee whose spine was nearly severed while he was in custody in a police van.

Dorsey and Bell both praised the officer in a case with a different outcome — an Ohio rookie who talked a charging murder suspect into surrendering. The confrontation on Thursday was recorded by the policeman's body camera.

"I've never been more proud of an officer," said Bell.

Dorsey said the officer choosing deadly force as a last, not first, resort led to some "harsh language" directed at the suspect. "But guess what? It worked," she said. "And the guy lived and the officer was safe."

"One of the things I really liked about this whole situation," said Bell, "is that people are arguing against the body cam, but the body cam showed a successful experience with an officer and a suspect.

"That officer had the right, lawfully, to shoot that suspect, but he didn't need to for necessity," said Bell. "And you can take this and you can bring it to the [police] academy, and you can train young cadets on what this officer did. And so that way … when they are placed in that scenario themselves they know how they want to react."

Dorsey cited the Baltimore case, caught on bystander video only during the initial arrest, as the kind needing outside investigation.

"You don't wind up with a severed spine … by happenstance," she said. "Someone caused those injuries. We need to find out who, and they need to be held responsible."

Fear of reprisal at work can make it difficult for any of the six officers involved in the arrest to come forward, she said.

"I can tell you in a real world situation there's a price to pay if you speak about things going on," said Dorsey.

Bell said that's where the federal aviation model can help — it has a formal back-up incident reporting system that allows for anonymous complaints.

"In my recommendations to the 21st Century Task Force on Policing, that was a model that I suggested be activated across the United States," he said. "So that way if an officer wants to bring this forward, they won't put their career in jeopardy and they won't put other careers in jeopardy. And this type of thing might have helped the situation in Baltimore."

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Fatal encounters with police officers must be investigated by an outside body that is independent of the local law enforcement systems in which the deaths occur, say two reform advocates.
Cheryl Dorsey, Mike Bell, police shootings
Tuesday, 21 April 2015 05:00 PM
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