A judge has downgraded former NYPD officer Peter Liang's conviction from second-degree manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide, meaning he'll serve no time in jail for the shooting death of Akai Gurley.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who secured the manslaughter conviction but recommended that Liang face no jail time, objected to Judge Danny Chun's determination to diminish the crime and said he planned to appeal the decision.
Delores Jones-Brown, John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, former New Jersey prosecutor, and co-editor of African Americans and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 2014), talks about the resolution of this rare case where a police officer faced criminal charges over the death of an unarmed African American man.
Although Liang avoided jail time, it's rare for a police officer to even be indicted. But despite this case and others that signify an increased scrutiny of police officers involved in shootings, Jones-Brown said Liang's indictment doesn't showcase a new normal. She pointed out that when white officers are involved, as was the case with the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of former NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, indictments are still a rarity.
"I think the tragedy of Liang's case is that he is a minority officer. The notion that we can watch a white officer intentionally kill a human being and we have a minority officer...accidentally kill a human being and be successfully indicted and convicted, but we can't get an indictment in the first case [Pantaleo]. So there's a level of racial politics and scapegoating that is going on that's not a new normal. And it does not mean that white police officers are going to be held accountable more frequently in the future."