Ex Ante Judgment of Officer May Complicate Investigation of Incident
By Ken K. Gourdin
An officer with Woods Cross UT police department pointed a gun at a young man who matched the general description of one of two robbery suspects police were seeking. Since the young man was not involved, the officer, his agency, and the agency’s administrator have come under withering public criticism.
That’s the problem with 20/20 hindsight: No one ever knows beforehand what the people who pass judgment with the benefit of hindsight know afterward, yet, often, those who pass such judgment proceed as though everything they know now was known by the person they are judging at the time he took the action for which they are judging him.
Did this officer do anything wrong? I have no idea. Will he be cleared of wrongdoing? Again, I have no idea. At this point, not enough information is available to be able to say either way. But that doesn’t mean that there will be any shortage of opinion and innuendo filling the gap where that information should be in the meantime. I pointed out as much in response to coverage of the incident in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News. The story can be found here (last accessed June 15, 2019):
That’s the problem with “justice by mobocracy” via demonstrations and in opinion fora such as this: I may well believe the officer did something wrong, and it may well be the case that, indeed, he did do something wrong. But even if everyone in the world believes that, yes, he did, indeed, do something wrong, in order for that determination, somehow, to be just, it cannot be made a priori or ex ante or absent due process.
No one, no matter how egregious the apparent or seeming wrong done, should be convicted without some sort of due process and according to legally established procedures. That’s the problem with the “court”—the kangaroo court—of public opinion: there’s no agreement on what the rules of evidence and procedure are or how they should apply in any given case.
As I’ve written before, yes, perhaps how incidents such as this are investigated, how discipline (if warranted) is meted out, and how they are prosecuted (if necessary) needs to change. Anyone with a reasonable proposal should be welcome at the table. But I don’t see how demonstrations and calls for action without all the facts are conducive to necessary dialogue.