When Police are involved in a shooting, they are compelled to give complete Garrity interviews, or they will be terminated.

In most Police shootings, the officer must immediately give a truthful statement about what happened to a supervisor, or they are fired.  Usually within the hour.  That statement is used to investigate the facts.  If the officer refuses, for any reason, they are immediately terminated.  They are read their “Garrity Rights” and the talk, or they walk.

However, those statements are not admissible in a criminal prosecution, because the are compelled under threat of termination.  They are, however, critical in an investigation of a shooting.  Consider this:  Shooting are extremely violent and stressful.  They may be more stressful with the knowledge that someone has died or is severely wounded.  The officer may be wounded or dazed from and assault.  Now sit down, and tell us what happened, before you do anything else?  It’s hard to remember everything.  If you have even been in a car wreck, you may have experienced the sensation of time slowing down, and tunnel vision forcing you to focus on a few important details.  You may not be able to remember exactly what happened until the shock has worn off.  Those are the conditions the officer is under, right after the shooting.

The Garrity Story

In 1961, the New Jersey attorney general began investigating allegations that traffic tickets were being “fixed” in the townships of Bellmawr and Barrington.  The investigation focused on Bellmawr police chief Edward Garrity and five other employees.  When questioned, each was warned that anything they said might be used against them in a criminal proceeding, and that they could refuse to answer questions in order to avoid self-incrimination.  However, they were also told that if they refused to answer, they would be terminated.  Rather than lose their jobs, they answered the investigators’ questions.  Their statements were then used in their prosecutions – over their objections – and they were convicted.

The U.S. Supreme Court then ruled in 1967’s Garrity v. New Jersey that the employees’ statements, made under threat of termination, were compelled by the state in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.  The decision asserted that “the option to lose their means of livelihood or pay the penalty of self-incrimination is the antithesis of free choice to speak or to remain silent.”   Therefore, because the employees’ statements were compelled, it was unconstitutional to use the statements in a prosecution.  Their convictions were overturned.

Several subsequent cases further clarified the protections that fall under the umbrella of Garrity Rights:

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Example of Garrity Warnings.

The purpose of this questioning is to obtain information, which will assist in the determination of whether administrative disciplinary action is warranted.

I am not questioning you for the purpose of instituting criminal proceedings against you.

 

During the course of this questioning, even if you do disclose information which indicates that you may be guilty of criminal conduct in this matter, neither your self-incriminating statements, nor the fruits thereof, will be used against you in any criminal proceeding.

 

I am ordering you to answer the questions that I direct to you concerning this matter.

 

If you refuse to answer my questions, you will be subject to immediate dismissal.

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