When someone is shot, the police naturally investigate right away. And they will talk immediately to whomever they believe fired the shots. That is unless the shooter is a police officer. They are protected by a 48-hour halo in which they cannot be interviewed about the shooting.
How many citizens accused of shooting would like this automatic protection? How about the pharmacist who is now charged with shooting the unarmed teenager who lay on the ground after a robbery-gone-bad? Doesn’t someone in his position believe he is entitled to the same police officers are given? In the pharmacist’s case, the video tape of the incident is more important than his statements, but his statements will still be used against him.
How many criminal defense lawyers wish their clients had been or would be given this kid-glove treatment?
“If it’s good for the goose, it should be good for the gander, “ Randall Coyne said. He is a criminal and constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma. “Why should the police officers, who are trained, be given more rights than citizens?”
One justification for the police policy is that the waiting period gives officers more time to sort through the emotional trauma of using force. “It gives them time to settle down, get their thoughts together and give a complete statement,” one of their attorneys said.
Of course. But wouldn’t that apply to any person who had been involved in a shooting? Wouldn’t it be emotional for anyone? Shouldn’t every citizen be given that benefit?
Oklahoma City’s well-respected Chief of Police, Bill Citty, tried to put the policy in context by explaining that all other witnesses are usually interviewed by homicide detectives before talking to the suspect. If a 48-hour halo is not needed for suspects, it’s not needed for police officers. If any who is suspected of shooting another person is presumed to be guilty, then police should be given the same presumption. Don’t the police trust their own investigators to be fair?
The Oklahoma City Police Department points to other departments that employ the same 48-hour halo policy: El Paso, Texas, Fairfax, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio. But others do not: Tulsa, Denver, Colorado, Cincinnati, Ohio, Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri.
The Oklahoma City Police Department, as all police departments, investigates any shooting with an officer involved. Only one shooting since the late 1980’s resulted in disciplinary action on the officer, and the review board that so found later reversed itself.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation does not follow this 48-hour halo for its agents or for any other police involved in shootings. The O.S.B.I. has not had an agent involved in a shooting in anyone’s memory, but their agents assist local law enforcement agencies with police shooting incidents, and they attempt to interview the police officers immediately.