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Culpeper Police Officer Indicted for Fatal Shooting

The Washington Post  notes that this prosecution is “highly unusual”  — “There have been few cases in the United States in which an officer has faced so serious a charge in connection with actions taken while on duty.”

Why is that?  Why is the prosecution “highly unusual”?  Because the investigation was unusual.  First, a separate police agency was brought into the case.  All too often the same agency ends up investigating itself.  Second, a special prosecutor was appointed to the case.  That was another important move.  The local prosecutors work with the local police week to week.  They depend on the police to help them win in court.  Even if there is evidence of wrongdoing, prosecutors often look the other way so as not to “rock the boat.”  Third, a special investigative grand jury was convened to hear from more than 45 witnesses.  In sum, this seems to be the model for how questionable police killings should be investigated.  The fact that this is the exception, not the rule, exposes a very serious problem that we must confront.


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