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Readers React

Convict a cop for shooting someone? Good luck.

To the editor: The article only scratches the surface of the significant systemic obstacles in prosecuting police officers for misconduct or manslaughter. ("Police killing, beating of civilians raise issue of reasonable force," Nov. 16)

At the outset, the investigation is usually conducted by officers from the same department. The grand jury investigation is controlled by prosecutors who work closely with the department. In the rare occasion when the grand jury indicts, the trial is often transferred to a "safe" district.

The final nail in the coffin is that the jury is instructed that the "reasonableness" standard for the police officer's actions is not to be based on an objective standard, but a subjective one of whether the officer feared for his life. Usually, if the officer testifies that he thought the decedent had a gun or reached into his waistband, the jury will acquit.

In the face of these difficulties, the few successful convictions for misconduct occur when the federal government indicts and prosecutes for a violation of the decedent's civil rights.

James Osborne, Los Angeles

The writer is an attorney.

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To the editor: The two problems I see with officer-involved shootings are the lack of alternatives and the lack of meaningful training.

In the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., even if you assume the worst about Brown, was lethal force the only choice? Wouldn't it have been better for the officer to step away and wait for backup?

And even if the officer was at some point genuinely in fear for his life, was he still terrified after he had shot Brown three times? What about after the fourth or fifth shot? Apparently he was, since Brown was shot six times. Where was his professional restraint?

Police officers must be expertly trained and then held to an even higher standard of behavior than civilians. Only then will the lethal use of force become what it should be: a rare occurrence.

Bart Braverman, Los Angeles

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