Police officers face adversity in every direction. Sometimes that adversity comes from within their own agency.
After an officer has been in an officer-involved-shooting, they become the subject of a multi-agency investigation, referred to as a “critical incident.” The investigation team will complete an investigation and send it to the District Attorney, who will decide as to whether the officer will face criminal charges for his use of deadly force. This decision is based on several factors, including whether the officer reasonably believed his force was necessary, and whether the DA would be able to overcome the officer’s defense in trial. Fortunately, most police officers are cleared of criminal liability by the DA.
While the critical incident is being investigated, the officer’s own agency is conducting another investigation, often in the background. That investigation is administrative, and the same thing as an internal affairs investigation. However, this administrative investigation is not focused on whether or not the officer complied with the law, but rather, whether the officer complied with the agency’s policies.
Can I be cleared by the DA but still lose my job? The answer is yes! The difference lies between the law and the agency’s policies. Officers can be completely within the law, but outside their department’s policies.
For example, a modern trend with law enforcement agencies is to prohibit shooting at moving vehicles. There have been plenty of instances where police officers have shot at the driver of a moving vehicle because the driver has been trying to hit the officer. District Attorneys routinely clear officers in this situation because the driver of the car is using deadly force against the officer, making his decision to shoot the driver legally justified. However, if that same officer works for an agency that prohibits shooting at moving vehicles, that officer may get fired.
At Front Line Law, our attorneys respond to represent officers that have just been involved in shootings. One part of our representation is to look for administrative pitfalls within the shooting. Our attorneys can spot those issues for our clients, and help those officers navigate the critical incident process and a subsequent internal affairs and employment situation that comes after. If you have been involved in a critical incident, your first call should be to Front Line Law, where our attorneys can help guide you to the best possible outcome for your situation.