Coming through a life-or-death encounter alive may be only the first challenge in claiming victory in a shooting or other major use of force.
After the firing stops, a criminal investigation, an IA review, media scrutiny, and likely civil lawsuits can create punishing secondary assaults for surviving officers if not negotiated properly.
It’s this potentially treacherous legal mire that police lawyer Lance LoRusso addresses in his new book, When Cops Kill: The Aftermath of a Critical Incident. Himself a former LEO, LoRusso is now an FOP attorney in Georgia and has counseled dozens of officers through the post-shooting ordeal.
“While I would like to tell you the road forward [after an OIS] will be smooth, that is most often not the case,” he writes. “We can try to wish away the effects of a critical incident, or prepare now to handle the alligators as we walk through the swamp. I prefer the latter.”
Across more than 230 lively and easy-reading pages, LoRusso explains in practical detail what to expect and how to manage the many unfamiliar facets of having your use of deadly force scrutinized by IA detectives, criminal investigators, skeptical news reporters, no-holds-barred plaintiffs’ attorneys, and others who have the power to judge your actions and, in some cases, seem to operate with agenda-driven motives.
Much of the hand-on-your-shoulder guidance he dispenses covers OIS matters seldom discussed candidly in police legal debriefings. A few examples, among many:
- Why your dispatcher should know how to reach your lawyer
- What to do if you’re approached by federal investigators or others from outside your agency
- What you should know about IA investigations before a shooting
- Legal considerations when you’re involved in multi-jurisdiction task forces
- How your agency should proactively use the Internet to its advantage
- What kind of media release should be issued in controversial cases
- How to respond to suspects who threaten to sue you
- 10 steps you should take when served with notice of a civil lawsuit
- What role you should play in preparing your legal defense
- The costs even legal defense funds can’t protect you against.
Officers who’ve been through the legal wringer after a shooting commonly complain that not knowing what to expect constituted a major stressor. In itself, LoRusso’s 50-page chapter explaining in layman’s terms the nuances of the civil justice system could be an important antidote to that anxiety.
LoRusso says that “all proceeds from When Cops Kill will go to charities benefitting disabled law enforcement officers.”
[When Cops Kill is available in paperback or Kindle format through Amazon.com. Author LoRusso also conducts a blog on legal issues for LEOs at: www.bluelinelawyer.com.]