After reports of officers engaging in shady acts of civil forfeiture, the shooting of unarmed civilians, and alleged racketeering over the last couple of years, you’d think our lawmakers would be looking to curtail law enforcement’s authority while determining if agencies have the training and accountability necessary to act ethically. Especially before extending that authority to make it easier for officers to use excessive force, while making it harder for civilians to hold cops accountable for using it.
A bill filed last week would seem to make it harder to sue law enforcement officers for using excessive force, making “excessive force” a term not subject to the policies of an individual agency.
House Bill 2328, authored by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, and Josh West, R-Grove, would amend Oklahoma’s current statute defining excessive force and removes a portion that holds peace officers subject to state law “to the same degree as any other citizen.”
You can read the bill for yourself here. Like I’ve said before, coming from a police family I can understand the need for officers to be able to protect themselves. Law enforcement is often a thankless job with long hours and fewer donuts than you’d think. But for a state that had more police involved shootings in 2018 than the entire Kingdom of Great Britain had in the last 10 years combined, I don’t think our problem is officers not having enough authority to protect themselves. It just doesn’t seem like they have the right training to use it.
Spencer Bryan, a Tulsa attorney with experience in filing excessive force cases, called the proposed change to the law “very disingenuous.”
Bryan said the change would essentially take away legal remedies for people injured by a law enforcement officer who was violating policy.
“It’s pretty interesting that they want to strip this language out. Bryan said. “It seems obvious what they want to do. They want to inject this more elastic language … to justify more policy violations.”
The Frontier goes on to state that data on excessive force complaints is scarce because it is often not reported outside of the agency in which it occurred. So being that we don’t have the actual data, maybe it’s really the case that most officers are acting ethically, so many complaints are unfounded. If that’s the case, then it makes sense to give an extra layer of legal protection to our officers. Maybe lawmakers should pass a bill mandating all excessive force complaints be public knowledge so the general public can know just how ethical their law enforcement agencies are really acting. It sounds like something our lawmakers may need to know when they are writing our legislation.
Whacha gonna do when they come for you. Follow Hayley on Twitter @squirrellygeek