Police and Deaths of Suspects

Twice in one week, suspects have died in the custody of local police. These simply represent the latest in a string of incidents in which some suspected of crime have died by the hands of, or under the supervision of, police agencies.

Vital to the safety of our community is a well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led professional police force. In those times and places when police protection has broken down, the world has witnessed the chaos and danger of lawlessness. Accordingly, supporting the men and women who risk their lives to protect us will provide a more secure and better community in which to live and raise our families.

Overwhelmingly, police officers are dedicated to the proper enforcement of the laws passed by our representatives. However, as the public has become increasingly aware since the Rodney King case, a minority of police officers abuse their position and power. For decades, suspects had periodically complained about police abuse; the difference with Rodney King was that the episode was captured on video. The circumstances were then preserved for all to see what happened. As a result, a court and jury would not have to wonder if the suspect was accurately describing the event, nor would they reflexively give the officers a "hall pass" based solely upon their claims of innocence.

Without question, force against suspects is often rendered necessary by their own resistance. In addition, any criminal can falsely shout police abuse to distract attention from his own transgressions.

Fortunately, nowadays, the technology has become available to reduce the risks of both police misconduct as well as false claims of police misconduct. Body cams, which are now affordable to even teenage skateboarders, should be provided to every officer who works in the field or who maintains custody of suspects. With these inexpensive devices recording encounters, individual officers, and suspects themselves, may be dissuaded from misconduct. But, when misconduct is not prevented, then the body cams have an opportunity, even if not perfect, to capture the incident for review by legal authorities, and for the protection of both legitimate police officers as well as wrongly treated citizens. It is time to utilize this technology to improve policing and to restore public confidence in those who protect us.

If you or someone you know has been abused by law enforcement personnel, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1-800-870-9584.

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