30 December 2021

Support Your Local Police

How does a state trooper who patrols a rural part of Pennsylvania manage to shoot and kill 4 people in the span of 15 years, and got an "Officer of the year," award as well.

It appears that the fact that his own barracks refused to allow outside investigators to look into the incidents, and the local DAs had no interest in a thorough investigation:

In November 2008, Pennsylvania Trooper Jay Splain was honored at a county law enforcement banquet as a hero, the police officer of the year. The reason: He had shot and killed a suicidal man who allegedly pointed an Uzi submachine gun at him.

The man had the Uzi taped to himself, and it had been reported that it was pointed at his own head.

That was the first killing. Trooper Splain went on to fatally shoot three more people in separate incidents, an extraordinary tally for an officer responsible for patrolling largely rural areas with low rates of violent crime. All four who died were troubled, struggling with drugs, mental illness or both. In two cases, including that of the man with the Uzi, family members had called the police for help because their relatives had threatened to kill themselves.

The most recent death was last month, when Trooper Splain shot an unarmed man in his Volkswagen Beetle. After learning that the officer had previously killed three other people over nearly 15 years, the man’s sister, Autumn Krouse, asked, “Why would that person still be employed?”

Because cops place protecting their own over following the law.  That's why they still have a job, Ms. Krouse.

Of course, this is a story is from the New York Times, which makes it likely that this guy is going to get way a LOT of attention, as will his superiors.

Trooper Splain is an outlier. Most officers never fire their weapons. Until now, his full record of killings has not been disclosed; the Pennsylvania State Police even successfully fought a lawsuit seeking to identify him and provide other details in one shooting. In the agency’s more than a century of policing, no officer has ever been prosecuted for fatally shooting someone, according to a spokesman. That history aligns with a longstanding pattern across the country of little accountability for police officers’ use of deadly force.

Prosecutors and a grand jury concluded that Trooper Splain’s first three lethal shootings were justified, and an inquiry into the most recent one is ongoing. Rather than have independent outsiders look into the killings, the police agency has conducted its own investigations — which were led by officers from his unit — raising questions about the rigor of the inquiries. 

Gee, you think?

“When a police officer has shot at and potentially killed a civilian, the public will never trust the police agency to investigate itself and be unbiased,” said Tom Hogan, the former district attorney of Chester County, Pa. A Republican, he helped write recommendations by the state prosecutors’ association for independent investigations — a reform that many departments resist, but one sought by the national prosecutors’ association and major policing groups.
Departments resist independent reviews because they are corrupt and abhor the idea or personal accountability.
In its review of Trooper Splain’s killings, The New York Times found inconsistencies between the evidence of what occurred and what the state police said had happened. The officer appeared to have departed from police protocols in several of the fatal confrontations, according to interviews and an examination of investigative and court records.

Read the rest. The details are troubling.

Even if his behavior does not rise to the level of criminality, and it does sound like it rises to the level of a criminal act, it's pretty clear that this history is problematic in the context of basic professional standards of law enforcement.


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