For Immediate Release
Feb. 10, 2017
Some of the nation’s leading big-city prosecutors, including Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, have released the first guidance document on how local prosecutors should respond, investigate and report on incidents in which a peace officer uses force.
Among the recommendations are that prosecutors should respond immediately to the scenes of such use-of-force incidents and that prosecutor offices should develop written internal protocols about how to investigate and make charging decisions in such cases.
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, based in Washington DC, organized the committee’s effort, and Baker served as a co-chair of the committee. During their year-long effort the committee invited not only top prosecutors from around the nation to join, but also critics in cities where they met. This included faith-based community leaders, police, and representatives of multiple activist groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, as well as other critics of the criminal justice system.
The report, “21st Century Principles of Prosecution: Peace Officer Use of Force Project,” notes that in recent years encounters between police officers and citizens have generated great concern and distrust. “Broadcast real-time on widespread social media platforms, peace officer use of force cases have deepened already fragile racial, social and economic divides in our country, and have aggravated distrust between our officers and the communities they serve,” the report stated.
Baker, who was co-chair of the year-long committee’s effort to draft the report, said she has already taken steps to implement many of the report’s key recommendations, especially fostering more transparency into the process.
“The public trust frays when prosecutors fail to explain how and why decisions were made,” she said. “We must do everything within our legal authority to rebuild this trust and extend fairness to all parties including, including police officers and community members.”
The report details four “pillar” principles that should guide prosecutors in these cases: Respect for human dignity; independent investigation and prosecution decision making; responsible transparency; and procedural fairness and justice.
Amid the national debate regarding police officer use of force cases, some critics have called for special prosecutors to be named to oversee charging decisions. But the APA report recommends that prosecutors demonstrate their independence and responsibilities, rather than handing it to an outside attorney. To do so, the report recommends detailed memorandums of understanding between prosecutors and police agencies, increased community outreach and detailed letters from the prosecutor to the public to reveal the investigation’s findings, evidence and legal analysis of the prosecutor’s review of each officer-involved use of force.
The committee concludes by saying that it expects its efforts will continue and will be revised as new and improved ways are developed to foster trust and to reduce or prevent the number of officer-involved use of force cases.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communication
Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office
Jean Peters Baker, Prosecutor
Work : (816) 881-3812
Mobile: (816) 674-3954