The latest news in what seems to be ongoing stories of police violence has happened very close to home.
On July 26, Zachary Hammond, a teenager from Seneca, S.C., was shot by a police officer attempting to make a drug arrest. While the initial statement from the Seneca Police Chief said the officer shot Mr. Hammond because he felt threatened when the teen began driving toward him, an autopsy later indicated that the shots were made from behind and the car was likely not moving.
While this case is still under investigation, if the situation proves true that Mr. Hammond was unarmed and the only purported threat was his vehicle, then it falls into a pattern that has tragically become too common: police officers violating clearly established protocol. It’s important to understand that many police departments around the country (including the NYPD since 1972) prohibit officers from shooting at persons in moving vehicles. Research has shown that there is virtually no risk of harm to an officer from a suspect in a vehicle. In fact, not one of the 34,000 officers in New York since the protocol was established in 1972 has lost his or her life as a result of being intentionally struck by a vehicle driven by an offender trying to avoid capture or arrest. Similar data can be found in major reports like the “Review of Use of Force in the Albuquerque Police Department, p. 66; June 23, 2011.” So in the Seneca case, it seems like the officer should never have even fired into a car, whether it was coming toward him or not.
According to the Huffington Post, South Carolina is on target to have one of its deadliest years in officer-involved shootings. The vast majority of police officers work tirelessly for the citizens they serve and stay well within the boundaries the law provides for their conduct and the few bad apples (as in most walks of life) are those that get the publicity. Contrary to other walks of life, however, the police have been given a sacred trust and with this are specially positioned with the power to do great harm as well as extraordinary good. The protocols in place are intended to insure the officers carefully and scrupulously exercise these powers such that all citizens have absolute trust and confidence that the police are acting to serve and protect.
If you’ve been involved in a situation in which an officer may have broken protocol, contact Hodge & Langley Law Firm today to discuss your case. We’ve handled cases of police misconduct in South Carolina, and we are ready to help.