When Legal Choices Aren’t Moral

We would hope and expect the choices our police make are morally based.

In light of the grief and anger that has dominated if, how, and when police use deadly force, I must ask whether we have allowed our elected officials to sidestep the moral choices regarding this issue?

After all, we have seen city after city pay millions of dollars to the families of persons killed by their police.

We know all too well now how it works: a) police shoot and kill a threatening person because the officer feared for his or her life; b) The district attorney finds the use of force was legal according to the low standard of the USSC decision in Graham v. Connor (the use of force was “objectively reasonable”); c) The police undertake an internal investigation and find the officer did not violate department policies and acted consistent with the training the officer received regarding the use of deadly force.; d) After waiting for the government’s decision in the death of their loved one, the grieving family files a civil suit against the police officer and city. The jury hearing the case weights the testimony before it and finds in favor of the deceased person’s family based on a “preponderance of the evidence rather than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”). The jury then awards a large sum of money (which has recently ranged from $2 to $15 million).

But the city and its taxpayers do not pay the full monetary amount because the city carries liability insurance; therefore, millions of dollars become only thousands — and the system in place which caused the deaths of citizens at the hands of their government goes on without change or modification. Some elected official(s) must have decided it is easier to pay the money than change the police.

The policies, training, and practices of the police department go unchanged because the government feels justified; after all, didn’t their police follow the law and their training? — no foul, no violation, legal. But there is another side: Was the action by the police moral?

What is happening is that one group of people who work for the government determine the police have acted legally in these deaths while a number of citizen volunteers, serving on a jury, determine the officer acted improperly.

When we, the people, do not correct the wrongs and errors that happens in our system of policing and justice, we are part of the problem. The failure to correct a wrongful act is immoral; to act in a moral way is to act properly according to our principles.

In these decisions, a group of citizens have said their police did not conduct themselves in a moral way.

So, why don’t police change the way they are presently using deadly force? Why don’t they manage this problem and develop ways to reduce these deadly shootings?