Sanford, Florida police chief Bill Lee announced today he will temporarily step down from his post. He's been heavily criticized for leading a botched investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.
Did police follow proper procedure in this situation? On Wednesday's show, John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and former NYPD detective Eugene O'Donnell broke down what cops should have done differently at the scene of the crime.
1). Questioning Zimmerman more
"The police appeared to leave the playing field, if you read the reports. They got into the business of first aid which is obviously crucial when life is in the balance. Their job is also to find the truth. There's actually a part on one of those police reports where the second officer specifically says, I did not talk to Mr. Zimmerman about this...The person who can speak best about this is lying dead. You have another individual. You're going to try to lock him in before he has a chance to create some varnish on his story or to think about invoking his constitutional rights. That's fundamental police work, trying to get his account then and there. And it appears if you read that report the police had some inexplicable disinterest, almost, to try to get to the bottom of this case."
2). Probable cause to make an arrest
"If police work is anything it's doing justice in a homicide case when somebody who cannot speak for himself is there. There were plenty of facts available immediately. The whole idea of his involvement as an armed community watch person having been told not to get involved, gets involved, there's lots of reasons to have probable cause to make an arrest."
3). Greater sense of urgency
"This guy is accused of a homicide. There's a theoretical threat to the community. There is an urgency to do that. That can always be — those charges can always be dropped later. It's not some gigantic standard. Is there probable cause in this case? When you take the facts that were immediately available there's clearly probable cause in this case. Even though the law is a goofy law that creates some gray areas that shouldn't be there the police should have acted courageously and made an arrest then and there."