Appointment of Special Prosecutors Where Death or Serious Bodily Injury is Caused by a Law Enforcement Officer
WHEREAS, the perception that law enforcement officers receive favorable treatment from the criminal justice system is wide spread; and
WHEREAS, in 2014 high profile cases occurred in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, and in Staten Island, New York, following the police "choke hold" death of Eric Garner; and
WHEREAS, large public demonstrations followed grand jury decisions not to indict those officers; and
WHEREAS, in 1992 Los Angeles faced major riots when a trial jury acquitted the officers caught on tape beating Rodney King; and
WHEREAS, some wondered whether the prosecutor had really sought a conviction at all; and
WHEREAS, there have been other cases, both historic and recent, too numerous to name in which police violence has lead to community unrest and distrust of the law enforcement process; and
WHEREAS, a prosecutor might hesitate to prosecute a police officer on whom the prosecutor depends in other cases, especially so if the prosecution would require challenging the officer's credibility; and
WHEREAS, beyond that, a close working relationship between a prosecutor and officer can alter the prosecutor's perception of potentially criminal conduct; and
WHEREAS, regardless of the reality of a prosecutor's hesitancy to prosecute law enforcement officers with whom he works on a regular basis, the public certainly has a widespread perception that such a hesitancy is a major factor protecting officers from the treatment that poor people, especially poor people of color, are likely to receive from the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, laws in many states provide for appointment of a special prosecutor who is not the elected or appointed prosecutor of the involved jurisdiction to handle controversial cases in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety; and
WHEREAS, appointment of a special prosecutor removes the actuality of day to day dependence by the special prosecutor on the officer involved; and
WHEREAS, it can give the public increased confidence that there is not a conflict of interest and that an unbiased investigation and, if appropriate, aggressive prosecution will occur.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) supports legislation, in every state in the United States, requiring the appointment of an independent prosecutor, who is not professionally, or otherwise affiliated or associated with the law enforcement agency involved in the incident, to conduct a thorough and appropriate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death or serious bodily injury of any individual that occurs in the custody of any law enforcement agency and, where warranted, criminally prosecute the law enforcement officer(s) for such acts.