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Are Local Prosecutors to Blame for Failure to Prosecute Police?

David Harris

The public outcry over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, at the hands of white police officers continues to spark protests around the country. 

One of the many legal aspects being called into question in these instances is the role of local prosecutors taking the cases to grand juries. Pitt Law Professor David Harris examines the part that local prosecutors have played in these cases.

Harris says that local prosecutors often have ties to police departments, thus producing a possible conflict of interest. Although sometimes local prosecutors do indeed prosecute police, Harris acknowledges that concerns about impartiality are justifiable.

Other routes -- like an independent review board -- can bring in a greater degree of impartiality, but they’re not a perfect option either because, Harris explains, charging police is difficult not just because of the impartiality problem.

More than any other factor is the thorny question of whether police force is justified that makes charging police so difficult, according to Harris.

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