Police Groups Criticize NC Officer Arrest in Death of Jonathan Ferrell

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The North Carolina attorney general’s office is handling the case.

Experts say it usually takes weeks or longer for agencies to complete investigations into a police shooting and decide whether to file charges. Investigators usually give officers involved time before interviewing them at length so they can decompress and process information.

But that didn’t happen with Kerrick.

“People are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and police officers are no exception. You don’t check your civil rights at the station house door,” said James Pasco Jr., national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.

He said most departments take their time with investigations because they want to be thorough.

“They go very carefully. One thing to remember in the case of a shooting, generally speaking, the most accurate information will come out over a period of time,” Pasco said. “Another thing is that participants in a shooting – whether they were the shooter, whether they were shot or whether they were just there – all tend to suffer to a degree from post-traumatic shock for at least a short period of time. And that’s why the best and most accurate information is usually gathered from these folks 48 to 72 hours after the event.”

Hagler, who worked more than 30 years for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department, agreed, saying investigators need time to interview witnesses and examine evidence. He said investigators have to consider in this case that at least one other officer at the scene believed there was a threat, which is why he used his Taser on Ferrell.

In the wake of the 2012 Trayvon Martin case — in which the unarmed teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch leader, who was later acquitted — some police departments may be feeling pressure. Sanford, Fla., police were accused of not investigating Martin’s case quickly.

But Lance LoRusso, an attorney and former police officer in Georgia, said investigators still need to take their time.

“They need to take a step back because it’s too important – too important to the family to get it right the first time. It’s too important to the officers to get it right the first time,” he said.

Trelka said investigations have to be “slow and methodical.”

“This needs to go through its entire process, and maybe the officer is ultimately convicted,” he said. “However, it’s just unprecedented that an officer is charged this rapidly under these circumstances. It confounds me.”

(Photo: AP)

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