Why Aren’t More Cops Charged for Murder in South Florida?
A Palm Beach County law enforcement officer finds himself charged with manslaughter and attempted murder – the first time a Palm Beach County officer has faced any such criminal charges at all since 1993. The law enforcement officer is accused of shooting a stranded motorist on the side of the road in October 2015. While this may be welcome news to individuals and advocates who believe law enforcement officers have gotten away with too much for too long, this does beg the question: Why has it taken nearly 25 years for a law enforcement officer in Palm Beach County to face criminal charges for harming another in the line of duty?
The Perception of Law Enforcement
One thing that has drastically changed over the previous 25 years is the public’s perception of law enforcement officers. In times past officers were well-regarded by most members of society. They were seen as public servants who took on an often-thankless job in order to serve their community. Now, however, the public has a much greater distrust of law enforcement officers and their motives. Some see law enforcement officers as ex-military members who are looking for a “thrill” and decide to become officers. The public is much more willing to believe law enforcement officers will violate a person’s civil rights because the officer feels he or she can get away with it.
The Advent of the Citizen-Observer
Another change in our culture that has led to increased prosecution of police officers is the widespread use of smartphones, cameras, and other electronic devices by members of the public to record their interactions with or observations of law enforcement officers carrying out their duties. In the past, questionable encounters with law enforcement often boiled down to a “he-said-she-said” scenario: The defendant or lay witness’s word would be offered against that of the officer (and the officer’s word would usually be believed). Now, however, there may be video and/or audio records that clearly demonstrate how the police encounter unfolded. This can be crucial evidence in a person’s criminal case.
What This Means for the Florida Criminal Defendant
Now more than ever, it is important for criminal defendants in Florida to be prepared to challenge the testimony of officers involved in their criminal case. If you have video or audio recordings that show the officer engaged in misconduct – either in the way he or she treated you or in the manner in which he or she carried out his or her duties – be certain to give this evidence to your criminal defense attorney so he or she can determine how to make the best use of this evidence.
Jeffrey S. Weiner is an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney dedicated to providing his clients with an aggressive and skilled defense to criminal charges in Florida. Contact his office if you have been charged with a criminal offense by calling (305) 670-9919 or by contacting his firm online.