Dallas County

Criminologist: Guyger Verdict Turning Point In Police Shooting Cases

Convictions of police officers are rare but following the Amber Guyger verdict, Dallas County jurors have now convicted two police officers of murder in the last year.

The Guyger conviction follows the murder conviction of fired Balch Springs officer Roy Oliver in August of 2018. Oliver was convicted after shooting into a car, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, as the car he was riding in drove away from a party.

A leading criminologist said the conviction shows a turning point in cases involving officer involved shootings.

Dr. Alex del Carmen is an associate dean and professor at the school of criminology at Tarleton State University and said the two recent Dallas County verdicts show jurors are no longer willing to give officers the benefit of the doubt because they wear the badge.

"I think we're seeing juries are more courageous," said del Carmen. "Juries are willing to take that extra step to really ask the question 'are police officers better trained than the rest of us?' And, therefore, 'Are they expected to perform in a critical situation like this in a more effective manner?'"

Del Carmen has trained thousands of officers and consults police departments across the state. He believes the Guyger case will be studied extensively by the legal and law enforcement community and felt the critical moment came when Guyger testified she intended to kill Botham Jean.

He said that is what officers are trained to do when they perceive an imminent threat.

"I think that's really important because many people see that and think 'well clearly she premeditated to kill'," said del Carmen. "On the other hand, police officers are actually trained that when they are going to use lethal force they are going to shoot to kill."

He added officers are trained to use what's called their muscle reflex and respond to a threat right away and shoot at center mass. He said he does not believe that aspect of training will change, but said other aspects of assessing threats will be studied.

"Many of us are going to revisit tunnel vision, being able to be situationally aware, how long it takes an officer to respond to lethal force and whether or not a person is really truly a threat to them," said del Carmen.

Del Carmen said the justice system is not perfect, but believes the system is getting better.

"We'll try to learn from these tragedies and try to train police officers to do a better job."

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