Policy 2021-03: Officer-Involved Violence Policy
When a police officer
engages in violence against a civilian, it can be wrenching for the broader
community. Lamentably, local prosecutor’s offices have not engendered
confidence in their ability to fairly evaluate officer-involved violence. Part
of that is because of structural issues. Local prosecutors work with local
police, day-in and day-out. It is virtually impossible to maintain the
appearance of impartiality when a prosecutor must evaluate charges against an officer
working for a department with whom the Prosecutor’s Office regularly works.
For that reason, the
ACLU, the NAACP, Campaign Zero, and multiple scholars and practitioners have
called for special prosecutors to be appointed in cases of alleged police violence.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office agrees with these voices. Accordingly,
it is the policy of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to recuse itself
from all local cases involving police violence, and to seek the appointment of
an independent special prosecutor in all such cases.
It bears emphasis that this Policy is being adopted with the goal of ensuring fair and impartial justice for all parties. Police officers habitually put their lives on
the line in the name of public safety—and they deserve fair and impartial
justice when they are accused of a crime. The appointment of a special
prosecutor in cases involving police violence will ensure that charging
decisions are not influenced by the close relationship between prosecutors and
the police. Just as important, this Policy will also ensure fair and impartial
justice for police officers. Under this Policy, officers who are facing
criminal charges will know that their case will be evaluated by an independent
prosecutor—not a locally elected Prosecuting Attorney who might be influenced
by community pressure.