MCAO Protocol for Officer-Involved Shootings

Law enforcement officers perform the vital job of enforcing state, county, municipal and federal laws. The enforcement of these laws does bring peace officers into direct conflict with subjects that may be armed and dangerous. When legally justified, peace officers are permitted to use lethal force. The use of deadly force is set forth by Arizona Revised Statutes. When law enforcement officers, deputies and/or federal agents use deadly force, the public has a right to expect that a complete, thorough and transparent investigation will be conducted and that all parties shall be held legally accountable for their actions.

To ensure this expectation is met, experienced homicide prosecutors with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) are on call 24-7 to respond to the scene of every officer-involved shooting and/or in-custody death in the county. The presence of MCAO at the scene of an officer involved shooting is to ensure that a complete and thorough investigation occurs. If necessary, MCAO has experienced Detectives available to assist a prosecutor with a critical incident investigation. After the investigation is concluded, the MCAO Officer Involved Shooting Committee conducts a comprehensive and objective review of the investigation to determine whether the officer(s) involved acted lawfully in using deadly force. This Committee then makes a recommendation to the County Attorney. The County Attorney makes a final decision as to the lawfulness of the use of force. Written notice of the decision is then provided to the involved law enforcement agency, the investigative agency and the involved employee(s).

MCAO’s legal determination of whether a shooting is lawfully justified is separate and apart from whether the officer(s) followed departmental policies and/or used appropriate law enforcement tactics. However, MCAO will candidly communicate with a department on the facts and circumstances of a particular shooting if doing so will improve the quality of law enforcement services provided to the public here in Maricopa County.

This Officer Involved Shooting Protocol is in place to ensure that complete, thorough and transparent investigations are conducted. When properly implemented, this protocol will produce professional investigations that hold all parties accountable. And because all involved parties are held accountable for their actions, the public can have an increased sense of confidence in their local peace officer’s decisions to use deadly force.


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