Any time a law enforcement officer in Maine shoots or hurts someone in the line of duty, detectives from the Maine Office of the Attorney General investigate.
The central issue is whether the officer was justified in using force.
Investigators look to see whether the officer had a good reason to believe that the person he or she shot was otherwise going to kill the officer or someone else.
But that judgment is based on the perspective of a cop, who has to make quick judgments. Here’s a standard line in some recent shooting reports:
[W]hether the use of force by a law enforcement officer is reasonable must be based on the totality of the particular circumstances and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a given situation.
Once the AG finishes the investigation, the office releases the final report — which can take some time. The office just last week released a report for a shooting that happened last December, for example.
In that case, York Police Detective John Lizanecz on Dec. 14, 2014 shot and killed Karin Moller, 55, of Cape Neddick in South Berwick, investigators said. She was suicidal and advanced toward officers with a gun drawn, authorities said. The attorney general found that shooting was justified.
In fact, according to The Portland Press Herald, as of 2012, every single shooting the office had investigated up to that point was found to be justified.
In many cases, the officer is put on paid administrative leave while the investigation is taking place — though that call is handled by the particular law-enforcement agency, according to Tim Feeley, spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills.
Here’s the PDF from the attorney general’s office on its protocol: