Ferguson DDA Kathy Alizadeh’s Big Mistake – Grand Jury given old statute
*A report on MSNBC revealed a 1985 Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v Garner, made it unconstitutional for police officers to shoot a fleeing suspect. Currently, police officers can not shoot someone who simply evades arrest. Police officers are required to reasonably believe that a suspect possess a serious public threat or has committed a violent felony. Prior to 1985, it was common for police officers to murder suspected criminals who ran away from them; no matter how minor the offense. But that was then and this is now – 2014.
As an honorably retired Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant, I received an inordinate amount of training on how to respond if confronted with a verbally abusive, profane or uncooperative citizen; practiced situation simulations (sit-sims) in the police academy dealing with escalation and de-escalation of force and began to realize that as a police officer it just made good sense not to take things personally when dealing with the public. But I guess if sense was common everyone would have it.
During my twenty years working patrol in south central Los Angeles, I understood that I had been equipped with tools (like a baton, pepper spray, or common sense) that I was expected to have available in the event of a use of force incident. Not having all of the tools of the trade, particularly a non-lethal option, like a taser because it is uncomfortable is ludicrous . That was the reason given by Officer Wilson for not carrying a taser in the field on the day he confronted and murdered unarmed Mike Brown. I’m left to assume that it is more comfortable to just shoot and kill. And based on Wilson’s testimony, he would shoot and kill again.
Imagine going to the dentist and learning that your doctor choose not to use novocain to numb your mouth because did not like the feel of a syringe in his hand opting to punch you repeatedly in the head MMA or CHP style. How is this acceptable? How is this allowed? How is this justified?
Though not an attorney, as a law enforcement officer, I understand that it’s not appropriate or justified to shoot someone just because they allegedly refuse to get out of the street, reach upward or outward with their arms , swear and then run away when shot. Deadly force is supposed to be a last resort – not the first resort. Maybe I could just taser the suspect. Nah, that would be uncomfortable.
So why then on September 16, 2014, did Ferguson Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Kathy Alizadeh provide the grand jury with an outdated statute on Missouri’s use of force doctrine. Was it a coincidence that this document was given to the grand jury just prior to Officer Wilson’s testimony? According to DDA Alizadeh’s instruction to the grand jury, “Section 563.456 …says law enforcement officers use of force in making an arrest. And it is the law on what is permissible and when in making an arrest by a police officer.” In other words, Darren Wilson CAN shoot a fleeing suspect.
The potion of section 563.456 that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court says this, ” …justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonable believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the escape from custody.” In other words, you can’t shoot a fleeing suspect.
DDA Alizadeh handed the grand jury that 1979 Missouri law even though it had been ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1985.
On November 21, 2014, DDA Alizadeh corrected the record by informing the grand jury that she had given them the wrong statute previously regarding use of force. DDA Alizadeh seemingly left the grand jury dazed and confused by the dueling documents just as they began their deliberation process on Darren Wilson’s indictment.
Is the Ferguson District Attorney’s office the gift that keeps on giving? Is it possible, practical and believable that a practicing attorney has failed to keep up to date with current law? Was this a mistake of the heart or of the mind?
And, had Officer Wilson been tipped to this early offering? Coincidence or pre-planned? Darren Wilson quietly married another Ferguson Police Officer in the midst of occupational uncertainty. On October 17th Wilson applied for a marriage license and married on October 24th. Not something, in my opinion, someone whose career is tenuous at best would undergo; Matrimony in the midst of a potentially career-ending court hearing.
An indictment or non-indictment in Ferguson changes nothing for the citizens. Change will come when the community decides to change the complexion of the Ferguson Police Department, elect officials whom appear to value the black lives in that city and most immediately stop financially supporting a system that does not constitutionally support you.
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, speaker, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show. She writes and provides commentary on police culture and surviving police encounters. She is the author of The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue; an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes. Visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryldorsey.net., listen to her on Soundcloud follow on Twitter @retLAPDsgt
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”~JFK