Cue the cries of how it's so difficult to convict cops

When we learned the news of the acquittal of Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero yesterday, one of the immediate concerns which came to mind was the danger of additional riots and violence. Fortunately we seem to have dodged a bullet on that front (both literally and figuratively) but the verbal onslaught over the injustice of it all was inevitable and not far behind. Never mind the evidence which was presented to the trial judge which showed that Nero was barely in contact with Freddie Gray throughout the arrest and transport proceedings… the fact that he’s not on the way to prison over this is the real crime. Or so we would be led to believe by CBS News as they ponder what could have possibly gone so wrong.

The acquittal of Baltimore police officer Edward Nero in the Freddie Gray case shows again how hard it is to convict officers accused of serious crimes. Since 2005, 70 officers in this country have faced charges related to an on-duty shooting. Only 23 were found guilty. That is a conviction rate of less than 33 percent…

The outrage after the acquittal in Baltimore Monday is something we’ve seen before — in Cleveland after a grand jury didn’t indict the officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice; in New York following news that the officer who put a chokehold on Eric Garner would not face prosecution; and in Ferguson, Missouri, when the officer who shot Michael Brown avoided criminal charges.

“Just an honest assessment of these types of cases are — they are difficult to prove in front of juries,” said Johnny Baer, who prosecuted Pennsylvania police officer Lisa Mearkle.

Mearkle was found not guilty in November in the shooting death of David Kassick.

Oh, there was “outrage” aplenty around Baltimore neighborhoods, but the most visible anger wasn’t coming from the citizens, but rather the reporters on cable news. And it’s just possible that we might not have the same levels of “outrage” in the streets if we didn’t have a complicit media feeding the outrage machine on a daily basis.

I would note for the umpteenth time that the anonymous author once again dredges up the same old talismans in search of some sort of proof of the failures in our justice system when it comes to police officers involved in lethal force encounters. What’s not mentioned is that a lengthy investigation of the Tamir Rice shooting found that it was a tragic accident caused by a breakdown in communications during what was described to responding officers as a potentially lethal crisis situation. The officer who put a choke hold on Eric Garner had no idea the man was in such dire physical condition and was seeking to restrain a suspect who was resisting arrest on lawful (if legislatively dubious) charges. And of course no such list of “criminal cops” would be complete without once again bringing up strong arm convenience store robber Michael Brown who was found to have attacked an officer in his squad car before turning and charging at him.

The article never once mentions Officer Michael Slager, who from all appearances on video flat out murdered Walter Scott and dirtied up the crime scene. He’s on trial for murder and has additional federal charges pending. If he walks away from that one, then you’ll have something to complain about, but I highly doubt it.

All of these incidents which are offered as evidence of a broken system are actually signs that the system is working. Not everyone who is accused of a crime is guilty, as the ACLU will tell you on a daily basis. But there’s a difference between someone who is hauled in under highly suspect circumstances and has a lengthy rap sheet trailing behind them and an officer of the law who ends up in a deadly encounter on their beat. The presumption of innocence until being proven guilty applies to both, but motive is important as well. Someone who is out on the streets upholding a duty to prevent crime or to apprehend lawbreakers absolutely gets a bit more benefit of the doubt when an arrest turns deadly and for good reason. There are some bad apples, and I won’t be at all shocked to find out that Michael Slager is one of them. But a conviction rate of 33% of all accused officers isn’t a sign of a corrupt system. In fact, I’d say it’s a bit higher than I would imagine since every officer involved in any shooting incident is rigorously investigated.


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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023