Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Winter 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 1

GETTING TO "WHY?" IN POLICE MISCONDUCT CASES: THE INTERROGATION RIGHTS OF POLICE OFFICERS IN PARALLEL ADMINISTRATIVE AND CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

By Sean P. Perdomo*

Police misconduct has received intense media coverage since the St. Louis County Grand Jury refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson for murder in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.1 After the events in Ferguson, criminal prosecutions of police were widely publicized in the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore,2 Walter Scott in North Charleston,3 and Michael James Tyree in Santa Clara.4 The publicity of police prosecutions signals a movement for more police oversight.5

The public’s recurring question in misconduct cases is "why?" the officer acted.6 Understandably, an officer’s answers could expeditiously resolve questions of misconduct. Although the answers would immediately satisfy the public’s concern, the involved officer’s rights could be threatened by a rush to judgment in classifying the incident as criminal until proven otherwise.

As discussed in Part I, peace officers’ rights are found in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, Gov’t Code section 3300, et seq. [hereinafter Act]. The Act provides officers with rights during administrative interrogations, but the Act’s application to criminal crossover cases is arguable.7 The Act’s application to crossover cases is contentious because of the dramatic difference in administrative rights provided.8 This article addresses the Act’s application to interrogations in crossover cases.

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