ACLU cites 'troubling pattern' of officers rarely charged; experts say Sheskey did as he was trained
KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- New details revealed this week in the shooting of Jacob Blake shed light on what happened leading up to the incident. But some organizations are still questioning why Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley did not file charges against the officer who shot him.
"The bottom line is that we're frustrated and discouraged by the decision not to bring charges yesterday," said Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.
Ott said there is a "troubling pattern" of police officers not being held accountable for their actions.
"Rarely do we see charges brought. That's what we saw yesterday in Kenosha. Very often the officers involved in incidents like this get to keep their jobs ultimately, or after things blow over, sometimes they just move to another department. The cycle or the violence just continues," he said.
Ion Meyn, assistant professor of law at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said statistics have shown that officers are rarely charged in these types of cases.
"We never hear the other side as a statistical matter, and I think there should be a little bit of skepticism there," Meyn said.
Meyn said this was a tough case. In order to get a conviction, the prosecutor would have to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer did not act reasonably.
"I think the jury would be very, very uncomfortable with coming down on intentional homicide charges as to someone who's acting consistent with the training. I just think it's a very unlikely thing for a jury to do. That doesn't mean that there's not evidence supporting a murder charge or attempted murder charge here," Meyn said.
Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, says the new information unveiled this week all showed Officer Rusten Sheskey did what he was trained to do. He pointed to several key details including that Blake was trying to leave in a car that wasn't his with children inside and that he admitted to resisting to officers.
"It really goes to show you know how much of the of the original narrative that really disseminated throughout the globe regarding this incident was it was wholly inaccurate and false. And I do think in a lot of respects this case is a prime example of the dangers that exist when people rush to judgment without the benefit of more definitive information," Palmer said.
Meyn, a former practicing defense attorney, said he also believes Sheskey acted as he was trained to do. He said the problem, however, is that the suspect is typically dehumanized in these types of cases.
"I think we should value the life of the civilian and the officer equally. I don't think there should be any difference regardless of what either have done, and I think that's implicitly happening in both the public opinion and the prosecutor's review," Meyn said.
Graveley's two-hour news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 5 also emphasized that Blake had a knife and there was a warrant out for his arrest. CBS 58 also asked Meyn how important these details were in the DA's decision.
"They're important because of the legal standard, because of people's perception, because of the narrative that's constantly being recycled by those who have a preference to believe that an officer acted reasonable," he said.
Palmer is a member of the Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities at the state Capitol, which was created by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in the days following the shooting of Blake in August.
Palmer emphasized that the shooting shows the need for police reform, specifically body cameras.
"The fact that (body cameras) weren't present in the shooting of Jacob Blake, I think, it just kind of destined this scenario from the outset to an outcome where you have a significant contingent of people that are unhappy and don't understand, or don't agree with the detailed findings," Palmer said.