Police shooting Aura Rosser highlighted in new Washtenaw district attorney policies

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ANN ARBOR, MI – Washtenaw County District Attorney Eli Savit has put in place two new policies regarding how to handle cases involving alleged police violence and cases where civilians are accused of resisting and obstructing police .

The first new political directive Savit announced on Friday January 8 requires the prosecutor’s office to recuse itself and request the appointment of a special outside prosecutor in all cases where charges could be brought against police officers who have engaged in abuses. violence against civilians.

There is a growing consensus on best practice, said Savit, who took office Jan. 1, replacing prosecutor Brian Mackie.

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Savit maintains that Mackie should have recused himself and referred the high-profile case of Aura Rosser’s 2014 shooting to the attorney general to be assigned to another county attorney.

Rosser, a 40-year-old black woman, was shot and killed by an Ann Arbor police officer in response to a marital dispute in the west end of the city in November 2014.

Mackie determined that Constable David Ried’s use of force was justified since Rosser allegedly approached officers with a knife “raised in attack position” and ignored orders to drop him.

Rosser’s death inspired Black Lives Matter protests and calls for police reform, leading to Ann Arbor’s formation of a police oversight board, as well as increased police training to deal with people in mental health crisis.

A protester places a sign on the ground in memory of Aura Rosser who was shot and killed by Ann Arbor Police in 2014 during a police violence protest in Ann Arbor on Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Jenna Kieser | The Ann Arbor News)Jenna Kieser | Ann Arbor News

Savit highlighted the Rosser case in his new policy direction, noting that Mackie’s decision not to indict the officer resulted in a strong and sustained community backlash.

“Today, over six years later, there are still marches and rallies in our community to protest the handling of Aura Rosser’s death,” noted Savit.

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Savit said during the campaign trial that he had not considered all of the evidence in the Rosser case, so he was unsure whether any charges were warranted, but he believes any shootings involving an officer should be dealt with by a special external prosecutor because there is a close relationship between the local prosecutor’s office and the local police, raising questions of impartiality.

“Violence involving officers is heartbreaking for the community as a whole,” says his new policy. “In such circumstances, the community deserves assurance that the prosecutor assessing the charges is impartial – and has not been influenced by the close personal and professional relationships between prosecutors and the police. “

Unfortunately, local prosecutors’ offices across the country have not created confidence in their ability to fairly assess violence involving officers, Savit said, citing several cases in which blacks across America have lost their lives. in the hands of the police in recent years.

“The ACLU, NAACP, Campaign Zero and many academics and practitioners have all called for the appointment of special prosecutors in cases of alleged police violence. The Washtenaw County District Attorney’s Office agrees with these voices, ”Savit’s political directive said.

Ann Arbor protests against police brutality

Protests against police brutality continue in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Two protests were held on State Street in the morning, one encouraging the Ann Arbor police to march with them, and the other a group encouraging protesters to remember Aura Rosser, who was shot and killed by Ann Arbor police in 2014.Jenna kieser

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Savit stressed that his new policy is to ensure fair and impartial justice for all parties, including the police.

Police officers risk their lives in the name of public safety and they deserve fair and impartial justice when charged with a crime, Savit said.

“Under this policy, officers who face criminal charges will know that their case will be assessed by an independent prosecutor, and not by a locally elected prosecutor who may be influenced by pressure from the community,” he said. he writes.

Second political directive Savit deployed on Friday requires prosecutors to review all relevant evidence, including videos, and consider “all of the circumstances” before laying charges of resistance and obstruction against civilians , only laying charges when there is sufficient evidence and the charges are in the interests of justice.

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Resisting and obstructing the police is a serious crime with heavy penalties, said Savit.

“The Washtenaw County District Attorney’s Office will continue, after reviewing all available evidence, to vigorously pursue these charges, if any, particularly when someone assaults a law enforcement officer,” his directive said.

At the same time, the directive stresses that the prosecutor’s office cannot ignore the series of high-profile incidents across the country involving police officers who abused their authority, inflicting lethal force on black civilians, assaulting civilians and , in some cases trying to conceal their Actions.

The directive asks prosecutors to review “all relevant documents – including body cameras, dash cameras and any other existing photographic, video or audio material – before allowing a resistance and obstruction charge.” .

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