It was all right here months ago:
But David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh professor who specializes in law-enforcement issues, says that even if the Justice Department declines to prosecute, local officials should act independently.
Federal investigators must meet a higher burden of proof, he notes. While a district attorney might prosecute on evidence of assault, for example, the FBI must "prove all of that, plus that [the crime] was done to violate federal civil rights."
"What you would not want to see is the federal investigation close ... and then the state and local [authorities] say, 'If they can't, we can't,'" Harris adds. "If that would happen, there would be questions to be asked." (CP, Chris Young)
Recall exactly what US Attorney David Hickton took pains to explain on Wednesday. Recognize that the Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) already announced it was standing down a day later.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has said he would wait until federal authorities were finished before deciding what he would do. His spokesman, Mike Manko, said he would have no comment until the office contacts the U.S. attorney's office next week and receives reports from OMI. (Trib, Margaret Harding)
Good that he is taking a deliberate, serious approach. His is the correct arena for this dispute right now.
One must fight to remember that the impossibility of a federal civil rights case does not mean the City could not have engaged in some systemic civil injustice -- nor that the officers necessarily were innocent of any sort of conceivable professional misconduct, regardless of whether we take Jordan Miles at his every word. Yes, OMI took a pass even on issuing what many would consider to be slaps on the wrist -- perhaps out of recognition that these men have already been transmogrified into regional pariahs, perhaps out of fear of jeopardizing other litigation. But the public rally today appears to be timely and appropriate in terms of its plea to the DA's office.
After that, we'll see.
We have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that those police officers we train, prime and send into the likelihood of sudden, brutal, racially-charged confrontation cannot intelligibly be charged as criminals. Not by their co-conspirators at any rate. Yet even at the end of that day, there need be no dearth of teachable and accountability moments -- just not of the type some of us dream about.
*-UPDATE: The "Alliance for Police Accountability" is taking their brief directly to the Chief of Police, as well as to OMI.