The news is out: [Since Breonna Taylor was awakened in the night and shot to death by the police in her own home, Louisville has banned no-knock warrants. A police chief was fired, and so was an officer who was on the scene. But despite demands from across the country, no one was charged in Ms. Taylor’s death.
On Wednesday, the Kentucky attorney general announced far less serious charges of wanton endangerment against one of the officers involved in the raid, and none against the two who shot Ms. Taylor six times.
Few police officers are ever charged with murder or manslaughter when they cause a death in the line of duty, and only about a third of those officers are convicted.
Even as tens of thousands of Americans protest police brutality and demand overhauls of law enforcement, a yawning gulf remains between the public perception of police violence and how it is treated in court.
Union protections that shield police officers from timely investigation, legal standards that give them the benefit of the doubt, and a tendency to take officers at their word have added up to few convictions and little prison time for officers who kill. On top of that, misconduct and poor judgment do not always amount to criminality.
Though state statutes vary, officers are generally permitted to use deadly force if they reasonably perceive imminent danger — a standard that has been criticized as overly subjective and prone to racial bias.
“Police know what to say and what to tell a jury and what to tell a judge to make those folks believe that they were reasonably in fear,” said Kate Levine, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “Even if there are other witnesses, those witnesses just don’t get the same amount of credibility determination from prosecutors, judges, juries.”
Law enforcement officers kill about 1,000 people a year across the United States. Since the beginning of 2005, 121 officers have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter in on-duty killings, according to data compiled by Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Of the 95 officers whose cases have concluded, 44 were convicted, but often of a lesser charge, he said.]
What would be the legal outcome if the victims were white? We know what happens when the killer cops are non-white.