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Is an officer action error a kind of police misconduct?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2021 | Police Brutality |

Emotions often run high during encounters with police officers. The people stopped by police officers often feel frightened or stressed, the officers themselves may experience anxiety because they don’t know how the individual will behave.

Unfortunately, police officers can sometimes make a situation worse rather than making it better with their behavior. Occasionally, police officers commit acts of blatant misconduct, such as when they become physically aggressive towards someone who poses no physical threat.

Other times, officers can make mistakes while doing their work that can lead to injury or death to others. Do these so-called action errors potentially open the door to misconduct claims?

Police officer mistakes are currently in the national spotlight

Right now, in Minnesota, a trial is underway that focuses on an officer who admits she did something very wrong. A driver attempted to speed away from officers during a traffic stop, and she claims that she attempted to deploy her taser. However, she instead drew her firearm and fatally shot an individual.

From the moment after she discharged the firearm, as evidenced by videos played in court, the officer immediately recognized her own mistake, saying out loud that she had intended to reach for her non-lethal weapon instead. Her intentions aside, there is little doubt of the practical effects of her mistake.

Her actions cost someone their life. Now, she faces criminal charges for manslaughter. The police department involved might eventually also face a civil lawsuit because of the action error made by one of its officers.

Better training and support would limit action errors

Sometimes, people do make mistakes while under pressure. However, police officers undergo rigorous training to avoid those kinds of mistakes because their job inherently involves high-pressure scenarios. Increased training and more scrutiny of the results are necessary.

If police departments hope to prevent these kinds of tragic action errors in the future, they need to engage in more training and more aggressive enforcement of standards for training results. Repeatedly needing to draw either the taser or the firearm with perfect accuracy before deployment in the field could be a form of training that could save lives.