A new trend among Democratic district attorneys may be unpopular with police unions. Still, the movement has won approval from those tired of the many officer-involved shootings of unarmed individuals and people who pose little to no threat.
District attorneys around the country have reopened hundreds of cases previously handled and dismissed by their predecessors.
The prosecutors reopening the cases remain primarily Democrats in Los Angeles, Texas, New York and other locations. The New York Times reported that the cases included 340 killings in Los Angeles County.
The trend marks a sharp break from the traditionally close relationship between police and prosecutors — a practice that critics opine has long shielded officers from accountability.
“This is very much needed,” proclaimed Maj. Neill Franklin, a retired Maryland State and Baltimore Police officer.
Franklin serves on the Law Enforcement Action Partnership board and the Alliance for Safety and Justice.
He’s also a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
“This is why with the many videos that we currently see that involve police misconduct, especially excessive force, we’re starting to see what Black folks have seen for a long time: police abuse and excessive force is rampant,” Franklin said. “Now, these prosecutors are going back and reopening and taking a critical look to reevaluate whether justice was done.”
The Times reported that the case reviews have aroused fierce resistance from police unions and conservative district attorneys who call them political stunts that demoralize officers and remain unlikely to sway trial court juries. The newspaper reported that unions in Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia have backed campaigns to oust the top prosecutors.
“To go back and open up all the cases because you have an absolute grudge against police officers and you’re trying to carry a badge of honor — ‘Look at me, look at me, I’m going to prosecute police officers, I’m going to hold them accountable’ — is turning the table completely upside down,” Todd Spitzer, the district attorney of Orange County, Calif, told The Times.
A Republican, Spitzer reportedly has remained an outspoken supporter of the union-backed campaign to recall his Democratic counterpart in nearby Los Angeles.
“These counties where the ‘woke DAs’ are elected, they are utterly destroying police morale. They are making it impossible to recruit police,” Spitzer said.
Others scoffed at both Spitzer and opposing unions.
“Seeing district attorneys treating killings by police with more scrutiny is honestly long overdue. For too long, the use of lethal force by police has been treated almost flippantly in that there was almost never any real examination of whether deadly force was truly called for,” said Nicholas B. Creel, an assistant professor of Business Law and Ethics co-coordinator in the College of Business at Georgia College and State University.
“As to this breaking the precedent of close relations between DAs and police, this again is a welcomed change to the status quo,” Creel said. “The police are not above the law. A DA being too close with police will inevitably result in a relationship between them that prevents the former from ensuring the latter is truly subjected to impartial justice.”
David Clark, a partner at The Clark Law Office in Michigan and a 35-year seasoned attorney, asserted that the re-examination of old police killings manifests the justice system’s renewed lens.
“It aims to update the application of fairness and modify the reasonableness of violence. The changes in our society this past decade due to modernization cultivated a society dependent on assuming better judgment and accountability on everyone,” Clark said.
“Not only will this reopening of old police killing cases be directed at bringing justice to the victims that deserve it but it is also a catalyst to the adjustment and, or reinforcement of lethal force laws. All in all, this step is a pivotal moment that signifies a stronger and just legal system. As a result, we can look forward to a future where the masses can once again fully trust the country’s legal institution’s objectiveness and integrity,” he said.