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Will Justice for Jean Mean Justice for All?

A white female Dallas police officer was arrested Sunday on a manslaughter charge in the off-duty shooting of a black male neighbor, Botham Shem Jean, whose apartment she says she mistook for her own.

Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail after being taken into custody, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a news release. The department said the investigation is ongoing and that no additional information was available.

Guyger, a four-year veteran police officer, was reportedly released on a $300,000 bond and is currently on PAID administrative leave from DPD.

Details surrounding the incident remain sketchy at best. There are inconsistencies between the language on the arrest warrant and the initial witness statements. If history shows anything, we can expect that facts will be hard to decipher in this case.

More troubling is the fact that Jean isn’t the first person shot by Guyger. In May 2017, she shot Uvaldo Perez, while on duty.

The question of the moment, is can we expect justice to be served in this case? There are mixed feelings on this sentiment.

Most skeptics believe that there will be little hope of discovering the truth, let alone the killer being held accountable for her actions. Police investigators tend to favor details that will lead to an acquittal and when presented with this information, prosecutors tend to lack the enthusiasm for prosecution that so often accompanies cases involving civilians.

On the other hand, some people believe this is an opportunity for police to gain public favor by fully prosecuting a police officer. Why would anyone expect police to take this route? It’s simple: no liability.

In cases of on-duty police shootings, the department is in effect under indictment. A conviction in an on-duty shooting would erode public confidence in police activities and undermine the unquestioned authority that police enjoy from much of the public. However, in an off-duty shooting, the department itself holds no responsibility and can therefore uphold the veil of on-duty officers and servers and protectors.

This case allows the Dallas police department the opportunity to demonstrate to a potentially skeptical public that they will hold officers accountable for criminal acts. This possibility is seeming increasingly likely in light of a recent tweet from Dallas PD, indicating that one of their officers had been arrested for drunk driving. Clearly DPD is willing to highlight when officers are held accountable for off-duty activity.

Time will tell whether the family of Botham Shem Jean will get the justice it deserves for this tragedy.

In the end however, even justice for the family will not help to undermine the stranglehold that the thin blue line holds on the rest of us.


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