Different law enforcement agencies handle officer involved shootings differently.
The I-Team has learned what local law enforcement agencies are required to do and the privileges officers get afterwards.
Police have a difficult job and have to be prepared to use deadly force in a split second. But once they do and the investigation begins, they have rights that regular citizens don’t have.
Deadly police shootings have been caught on camera in Lousiana and Minnesota.
How they happened and how they were handled have been the subject of protests and even retaliatory ambushes.
“Today, public trust and confidence in the police is framed around the use of force almost entirely,” said Jim Bueermann, President of the National Police Foundation.
But how departments prepare for and respond to deadly use of force varies greatly.
“No incident and no call for response is the same. Every county is different in the nation, every law enforcement jurisdiction is different in this nation,” said Jonathon Thompson, Executive Director of the National Sheriff’s Association.
Bay area departments' policies obtained by the I-Team vary in length from two to 19 pages and focus on different criteria.
Tampa's chief emphasizes prior training.
“Having these officers prepare for these types of scenarios, those types of situations is key,” said Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward.
The Tampa policy says officers should render first aid before help arrives, something that didn't happen in Minnesota.
“You would like to have seen a little more sympathy and attention to the victim, who's bleeding to death,” said Tampa Attorney Steve Crawford.
In all Florida police shootings, officers are immediately put on leave.
But the bill of rights passed by the state legislature says they don't have to submit to an interview to preserve their jobs until they have been given access to witness and officer statements, reports and other evidence against them, including videos.
Crawford says that's only fair.
“Police officers have the most difficult job there is out there, let's just recognize that. So they deserve more protections, and they should have more protection. At the same time, they are accountable,” Crawford said.
Attorney John Makholm, a former police chief who often represents officers accused of wrongdoing, says the Officers' Bill of Rights may protect their jobs, but it doesn't prevent them from being investigated by the Florida State's Attorney's Office, which has special investigators assigned to investigate police use of force issues.
In those cases, Makholm points out, police who shoot people are read the same Miranda warnings and can be questioned just like everyone else if potential criminal charges are involved.
Here is a copy of the Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights:
112.532 Law enforcement officers’ and correctional officers’ rights.—All law enforcement officers and correctional officers employed by or appointed to a law enforcement agency or a correctional agency shall have the following rights and privileges:
(1) RIGHTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHILE UNDER INVESTIGATION.—Whenever a law enforcement officer or correctional officer is under investigation and subject to interrogation by members of his or her agency for any reason that could lead to disciplinary action, suspension, demotion, or dismissal, the interrogation must be conducted under the following conditions:
(a) The interrogation shall be conducted at a reasonable hour, preferably at a time when the law enforcement officer or correctional officer is on duty, unless the seriousness of the investigation is of such a degree that immediate action is required.
(b) The interrogation shall take place either at the office of the command of the investigating officer or at the office of the local precinct, police unit, or correctional unit in which the incident allegedly occurred, as designated by the investigating officer or agency.
(c) The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation shall be informed of the rank, name, and command of the officer in charge of the investigation, the interrogating officer, and all persons present during the interrogation. All questions directed to the officer under interrogation shall be asked by or through one interrogator during any one investigative interrogation, unless specifically waived by the officer under investigation.
(d) The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer. An officer, after being informed of the right to review witness statements, may voluntarily waive the provisions of this paragraph and provide a voluntary statement at any time.
(e) Interrogating sessions shall be for reasonable periods and shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary.
(f) The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under interrogation may not be subjected to offensive language or be threatened with transfer, dismissal, or disciplinary action. A promise or reward may not be made as an inducement to answer any questions.
(g) The formal interrogation of a law enforcement officer or correctional officer, including all recess periods, must be recorded on audio tape, or otherwise preserved in such a manner as to allow a transcript to be prepared, and there shall be no unrecorded questions or statements. Upon the request of the interrogated officer, a copy of any recording of the interrogation session must be made available to the interrogated officer no later than 72 hours, excluding holidays and weekends, following said interrogation.
(h) If the law enforcement officer or correctional officer under interrogation is under arrest, or is likely to be placed under arrest as a result of the interrogation, he or she shall be completely informed of all his or her rights before commencing the interrogation.
(i) At the request of any law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation, he or she has the right to be represented by counsel or any other representative of his or her choice, who shall be present at all times during the interrogation whenever the interrogation relates to the officer’s continued fitness for law enforcement or correctional service.
(j) Notwithstanding the rights and privileges provided by this part, this part does not limit the right of an agency to discipline or to pursue criminal charges against an officer.
(2) COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARDS.—A complaint review board shall be composed of three members: One member selected by the chief administrator of the agency or unit; one member selected by the aggrieved officer; and a third member to be selected by the other two members. Agencies or units having more than 100 law enforcement officers or correctional officers shall utilize a five-member board, with two members being selected by the administrator, two members being selected by the aggrieved officer, and the fifth member being selected by the other four members. The board members shall be law enforcement officers or correctional officers selected from any state, county, or municipal agency within the county. There shall be a board for law enforcement officers and a board for correctional officers whose members shall be from the same discipline as the aggrieved officer. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to sheriffs or deputy sheriffs.
(3) CIVIL SUITS BROUGHT BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS OR CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS.—Every law enforcement officer or correctional officer shall have the right to bring civil suit against any person, group of persons, or organization or corporation, or the head of such organization or corporation, for damages, either pecuniary or otherwise, suffered during the performance of the officer’s official duties, for abridgment of the officer’s civil rights arising out of the officer’s performance of official duties, or for filing a complaint against the officer which the person knew was false when it was filed. This section does not establish a separate civil action against the officer’s employing law enforcement agency for the investigation and processing of a complaint filed under this part.
(4)(a) NOTICE OF DISCIPLINARY ACTION.—A dismissal, demotion, transfer, reassignment, or other personnel action that might result in loss of pay or benefits or that might otherwise be considered a punitive measure may not be taken against any law enforcement officer or correctional officer unless the law enforcement officer or correctional officer is notified of the action and the reason or reasons for the action before the effective date of the action.
(b) Notwithstanding s. 112.533 (2), whenever a law enforcement officer or correctional officer is subject to disciplinary action consisting of suspension with loss of pay, demotion, or dismissal, the officer or the officer’s representative shall, upon request, be provided with a complete copy of the investigative file, including the final investigative report and all evidence, and with the opportunity to address the findings in the report with the employing law enforcement agency before imposing disciplinary action consisting of suspension with loss of pay, demotion, or dismissal. The contents of the complaint and investigation shall remain confidential until such time as the employing law enforcement agency makes a final determination whether or not to issue a notice of disciplinary action consisting of suspension with loss of pay, demotion, or dismissal. This paragraph does not provide law enforcement officers with a property interest or expectancy of continued employment, employment, or appointment as a law enforcement officer.
(5) RETALIATION FOR EXERCISING RIGHTS.—No law enforcement officer or correctional officer shall be discharged; disciplined; demoted; denied promotion, transfer, or reassignment; or otherwise discriminated against in regard to his or her employment or appointment, or be threatened with any such treatment, by reason of his or her exercise of the rights granted by this part.
(6) LIMITATIONS PERIOD FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS.—
(a) Except as provided in this subsection, disciplinary action, suspension, demotion, or dismissal may not be undertaken by an agency against a law enforcement officer or correctional officer for any act, omission, or other allegation of misconduct if the investigation of the allegation is not completed within 180 days after the date the agency receives notice of the allegation by a person authorized by the agency to initiate an investigation of the misconduct. If the agency determines that disciplinary action is appropriate, it shall complete its investigation and give notice in writing to the law enforcement officer or correctional officer of its intent to proceed with disciplinary action, along with a proposal of the specific action sought, including length of suspension, if applicable. Notice to the officer must be provided within 180 days after the date the agency received notice of the alleged misconduct, except as follows:
1. The running of the limitations period may be tolled for a period specified in a written waiver of the limitation by the law enforcement officer or correctional officer.
2. The running of the limitations period is tolled during the time that any criminal investigation or prosecution is pending in connection with the act, omission, or other allegation of misconduct.
3. If the investigation involves an officer who is incapacitated or otherwise unavailable, the running of the limitations period is tolled during the period of incapacitation or unavailability.
4. In a multijurisdictional investigation, the limitations period may be extended for a period of time reasonably necessary to facilitate the coordination of the agencies involved.
5. The running of the limitations period may be tolled for emergencies or natural disasters during the time period wherein the Governor has declared a state of emergency within the jurisdictional boundaries of the concerned agency.
6. The running of the limitations period is tolled during the time that the officer’s compliance hearing proceeding is continuing beginning with the filing of the notice of violation and a request for a hearing and ending with the written determination of the compliance review panel or upon the violation being remedied by the agency.
(b) An investigation against a law enforcement officer or correctional officer may be reopened, notwithstanding the limitations period for commencing disciplinary action, demotion, or dismissal, if:
1. Significant new evidence has been discovered that is likely to affect the outcome of the investigation.
2. The evidence could not have reasonably been discovered in the normal course of investigation or the evidence resulted from the predisciplinary response of the officer.
Any disciplinary action resulting from an investigation that is reopened pursuant to this paragraph must be completed within 90 days after the date the investigation is reopened.
History.—s. 2, ch. 74-274; s. 2, ch. 82-156; s. 2, ch. 93-19; s. 721, ch. 95-147; s. 1, ch. 98-249; s. 1, ch. 2000-184; s. 1, ch. 2003-149; s. 3, ch. 2005-100; s. 1, ch. 2007-110; s. 1, ch. 2009-200.