Our View: Prosecute police shootings

Saturday , June 08, 2013 - 8:15 AM

Editorial Board

Why haven’t the officers who were involved in two local police shootings deemed unjustified been prosecuted? That is a question that merits asking. A change in review procedures is needed. The state should make the decision on whether a law enforcement officer, in such cases, is charged with a crime. Local prosecutors can investigate and release a report, then submit their findings to the state attorney general’s office for a final decision.

There were two shootings late in 2012 by law enforcement which were ruled unjustified:

• On Nov. 24, Kristine Nicole Biggs, 41, was injured when she was shot in the eye, in South Weber by Morgan Sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Scott Peay after a 32-mile chase through Morgan, Weber and Davis counties. The shooting was ruled unjustified, though Peay was never prosecuted. In fact, in January, Davis District Attorney Troy Rawlings said he believed a unanimous jury would not convict Peay.

• On Dec. 18, Clifford Dean Owens, 51, was shot at by Ogden officer Justin Kaufman when Owens rammed Kaufman’s vehicle twice during a chase. The shooting was ruled unjustified, and Kaufman later resigned from the Ogden Police Department.

It seems clear that local authorities are unwilling to pursue prosecutions of law enforcement officers who shoot when they are not supposed to. This is a problem. Being a law enforcement officer is an admirable profession. It comes with great responsibility. When that responsibility is abused, it damages the public trust for the police. When legal consequences are needed as a result of bad law enforcement, they need to happen.

In South Weber and Ogden, law enforcement professionals incorrectly fired deadly weapons. Yet there are no legal consequences. Readers can arguably ask themselves, “what would happen if I were to — in a stressful moment — slug another person?” The answer is easy — we would be arrested, charged with a crime and likely receive a legal penalty.

The same standard should apply to law enforcement.

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