The call for the Portland Police Department to remove the “48 hour rule” that is currently required before an officer can be interviewed following a deadly shooting is another attack on law enforcement that may seem harmless to some but it is dangerous to the profession.As Grits and others have pointed out in the past, if memory improves by waiting two or three days to question someone, why aren't suspects given time to compose themselves, speak to their lawyer, review any available video or other evidence, etc., before giving their statements? After all, their memories must be equally imperfect and "the only reason anyone" would want to question them sooner would be if they seek to "harm the reputation and/or indict" a presumed-innocent suspect, according to this way of thinking.
The demand made by a police oversight panel is just another uneducated, baseless request that makes no sense unless you want to harm law enforcement.
Of course the rule exists, hopefully in every agency, because of the sound research and past history of interviewing officers immediately after a critical incident. One component of a high stress situation is a loss of memory. Research calls it a “memory gap” and immediately after a shooting or other high stress event, those involved will often not remember details or misinterpret facts. Those gaps begin to fill in and after a few days officers will have a clear picture of what occurred.
The importance of a 48-72 hour window after a critical incident is vital if you want an accurate depiction of what happened. I have been there and witnessed it myself. This so called “oversight committee” would have no clue and the only reason anyone would push for the elimination of this sound practice is to harm the reputation and/or indict more cops.
In the 70 or so agencies operating under Texas' civil service code, officers can't be questioned about any complaint against them, not just after critical incidents, unless they've been provided with a written copy of the allegations 48 hours in advance. And when they're questioned, interrogations "may not be unreasonably long." Moreover, as we saw recently in this case, if an officer reveals incriminating information when his or her employer does question them, those details can't be used in court.
By contrast, during the first 48 hours after a shooting, civilian suspects are often subjected to intense, lengthy questioning. As Dallas defense attorney Toby Shook has noted, "Police detectives often get very damaging statements from suspects shortly after the incident. At trial if the defendant’s story changes the prosecutor quickly argues to the jury that the defendant has changed his story and is lying."
Over time, these sorts of double standards breed understandable distrust.
If departments really believe memory is so fragile that their officers can't accurately recall incidents that occurred the same day, then the same protocols should apply to suspects. Otherwise, there's really no excuse for it beyond providing an additional layer of protection keeping bad cops from being held accountable for their misdeeds.