Why Some Officers Who Kill on the Job Return to Work Right Away

By Sameer Rao Oct 24, 2016

The August 9 killing of Jesse Romero by LAPD officer Eden Medina inspired controversy and protests—not least of all because Medina shot and killed Omar Gonzalez just 12 days prior. A new story from the Los Angeles Times tries to answer why he was placed back on duty so soon after the first shooting.

Citing a report by the city’s civilian police commission, the Times’ Kate Mather wrote that "LAPD officers typically return to the field one to two weeks after a shooting and can do so even before they complete a training refresher course that usually lasts between 30 minutes and an hour." While an LAPD spokesperson wouldn’t confirm whether or not Medina completed that course in the days between the two shootings, he did confirm that Medina returned to the force six days after shooting Gonzalez and "was cleared by a department psychologist and the police chief."

In the report, Mather compares protocol for four different police departments:

LAPD officers must meet with a psychologist within a week of firing their guns. Officers must be cleared by a psychologist before the chief decides whether they can return to work, though the psychologist may require officers to attend additional counseling sessions after they’re back on the job. Officers may request extra meetings.

Officers also receive what’s called a general training update—a refresher course that includes a review of the LAPD’s policy for using deadly force and time in a simulator where officers react to various real-life scenarios that could lead to using that deadly force.

Police in Dallas, however, must attend three mental health evaluations after a shooting—a week, three months and six months later. Las Vegas officers are required to attend at least two sessions and are then evaluated by a board of department officials before an undersheriff signs off on returning that officer to the field.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who are involved in shootings—whether they pulled the trigger or not—must check in with a psychologist within days, then again two weeks and four months later, sheriff’s officials said. They generally return to work between a week and 10 days after a shooting.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Police Commission directed the LAPD to review protocol that put officers back on the job soon after a shooting. Commission president Matt Johnson expressed concern over the comparatively low amount of counseling and training mandated for involved officers. "These are traumatic events, and one mandatory session does not seem adequate to me," he said. "Someone could have a great session and frankly, pull the wool over your eyes, and you don’t see the trauma that they’re going through."

The attorney representing Romero’s mother agreed, telling the Times that Medina should’ve had more time for "cooling down." "I have friends who are police officers—they worked for 35 years and they never shot a civilian," he said. "This is an officer who killed somebody 12 days before he killed our kid. How could that happen?"

Read the full article here