Damon Root on Fatal Police Shootings and Self-Serving Police Narratives

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Last week The New York Times published a widely read op-ed titled "How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops." According to the author, one of the key ways SCOTUS shields the police is by consistently extending the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement agents who employ deadly force against criminal suspects. Thanks to such deferential decisions, the op-ed declared, the high court has made it "very difficult, and often impossible, to hold police officers and the governments that employ them accountable for civil rights violations."

Perhaps the Supreme Court should take a few pointers from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, suggests Reason Senior Editor Damon Root. Last Thursday that court refused to let one California police department off the hook for a fatal shooting that claimed the life of an unarmed suspect. Declining to accept at face value what he characterized as the "self-serving" police narrative, 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that not only is there reason to doubt the officers' version of the facts; there is reason to "conclude that the officers lied."

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