When a police officer is forced to discharge his weapon, a widespread investigation usually follows. If a person has been injured or killed, police investigators need to know exactly what happened in order to determine whether the officers was justified in his or her use of deadly force. Usually, the officer is placed on administrative leave while this often lengthy process is conducted.
That wasn't the case following a recent shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Following a fatal shooting event, one Charlotte officer was swiftly charged with voluntary manslaughter, an action that many observers found to be objectionable.
The officer is accused of unlawfully shooting an unarmed suspect. The man was charging at three police officers at the end of an extended chase. The officers attempted to stop the man by shooting him with a Taser, but this failed. One officer then fired his weapon at the man at close range, killing him instantly.
While manslaughter charges occasionally follow a police shooting, usually they come after weeks of investigation. Police officers say that it was irresponsible of the Charlotte Police Department to bring forward criminal charges so quickly, as they may not have had all the necessary information.
According to one officer, law enforcement officials often suffer from post-traumatic shock following a shooting incident. The best information about the incident, then, comes from interviews conducted several days after the incident, when the shock has worn off.
Law enforcement officials and district attorneys have a responsibility to conduct thorough investigations to ensure that the charges they pursue are appropriate to the situation. Cases in which charges were brought forward with unusual speed should receive a healthy amount of scrutiny from defense attorneys to determine whether the charges should be modified or thrown out. Similarly, charges for federal crimes that have been swiftly pushed forward should be carefully reexamined to determine whether the charges should be sent down to state courts.
Source: The New York Times, "Police Groups Are Critical of Quickly Filed Charges Against Charlotte Officer" No Author Given, Oct. 13, 2013