The harsh treatment of former police officer Darren Wilson in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., case has changed how police officers approach life or death situations, and those officers say it could have devastating consequences.
Wilson was under investigation by a grand jury for the shooting death of Michael Brown, stemming from a physical altercation between him and Brown. Though he was not indicted, Wilson decided that resigning from the force was his best response to the onslaught of criticism.
Ron Hosko, President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that police officers around the country are afraid of getting the “Darren Wilson treatment” — a skewering in the press and from public officials. Said Hosko:
I think cops are struggling now, saying look at what happened to this guy who fought with a larger teen for his weapon. Everybody is running for a tree and a rope for this guy who at the end of the day is justified in his actions.
Despite a DOJ investigation that found inconsistencies and out-and-out lies in much of the testimony provided by eyewitnesses, which should have vindicated Wilson, the criticisms continue. The Brown family is filing a civil suit, which is easier to win because the burden of proof in is considerably lighter than in criminal court.
Hosko said of the impending action:
If you’re a cop you have to be thinking, this could be me. Cops are legitimately going to second guess themselves because they think that, ‘even if they did something right I’m going to have a civil rights case hanging over my head for several months. That is going to cause them to hesitate.
Hosko said when guns are drawn, hesitation can cost the life of an officer or an innocent person. The feeling is widespread among law enforcement. Richard Ferguson, background investigator for the Allen Police Department outside of Dallas, said that even though his community is mostly friendly toward police, officers in his department worry that the aftershocks from Ferguson could cost them their lives.
He said when an officer must decide if there’s enough threat to pull the trigger, they shouldn’t also have fears of lawsuits when people “Monday morning quarterback” the decision.
When asked if police fear the “Darren Wilson treatment,” officer Ferguson gave a resounding yes.
“I think that’s absolutely true.”
This report, by Casey Harper, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.