Cop Talk: Protection
After the Shooting


Retired cops, like armed citizens, are wise to subscribe to a post-self-defense support group.

You’ve won the gunfight. Now come the court fights … in criminal court, in civil court and in the court of public opinion. Current cop, retired cop, or private citizen, you need to be ready.

I’m writing this eight days after the Not Guilty verdict for a lawman I spoke for in Federal court in Tampa, Fla. His case is a classic example of why I laugh when I read that shibboleth on the gun-related internet, “A good shoot is a good shoot.”

His shooting took place in October of 2016. He was completely exonerated by the internal affairs investigation conducted by the Sheriff’s Department he had served for many years. He was likewise cleared by the investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which does not by any means cover for bad cops. His shooting was determined justifiable by the prosecuting authority, the State’s Attorney’s Office. He was cleared by a Grand Jury, which returned a verdict of No True Bill — essentially a finding that he had committed no crime — and the foreperson of that Grand Jury even took the unusual step of generating a memo explaining their verdict.

That didn’t matter to an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, who ramrodded an indictment on him in 2019.

His trial did not begin until April 4, 2022. It ended five days later with his final exoneration.
I can’t tell you exactly how much his legal defense cost him. I can tell you it wasn’t cheap.

How Things Work

Legal defenses are expensive. Unless they’re sympathetic to your case and cut you an awfully good deal, you’re looking at somewhere around $500 an hour for a whole lot of hours.

Some of the most famous defense lawyers get more. According to the newspapers, one thousand dollars per hour is the current fee of Mark O’Mara, who led the successful defense of George Zimmerman when he was tried for murder after killing Trayvon Martin a decade ago. It’s also the same hourly fee of Wayne LaPierre’s primary attorney. The longest police shooting trial I’ve done was that of Miami officer Luis Alvarez back in 1984: between eight and nine weeks. The pre-trial preparation was even more exhaustive. Legal fees in that case would have run over a million bucks in today’s money. A month to the day before that Tampa trial, I had spoken for an armed citizen charged with First Degree Murder in South Dakota, arising from a shooting 26 months before the trial. His legal fees were about $300,000.

Mas, foreground, with involved officers at the fatal OIS scene. The county,
when sued, paid to defend the deputies as well as itself. That’s not always the
case when officers are criminally charged. Yes, the lawmen won the lawsuit.

who pays?

Does the police department pay to defend the officer? Bwa-ha-ha! There is no law enforcement agency in the nation with a line-item budget for defending personnel accused of felonies! In a civil suit, the officer will be sued jointly and severally with the department, because the agency has the deep pockets of the community’s tax base. If the department pays for the individual cop’s civil court defense, it’s only out of mutual interest.

An indicted cop has only his union or fraternal organization to pay his or her legal costs if they are indicted, and it’s why for decades, I’ve told cops to join that association! The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) paid for the defense of Alvarez in that Miami case. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) paid for the criminal defense of the four cops charged with murder in the death of Amadou Diallo in NYC twenty-some years ago. Unfortunately, the cop I mentioned who was tried in Federal court hadn’t joined such an association because he naively believed the criminal justice system would never prosecute a cop for doing the right thing. He had to pay for his defense out of his life savings.

A retired cop may or may not be on his own. There is a retired federal agents’ association offering such coverage for its members, and a friend who’s a retired California deputy tells me he pays for such coverage through PORAC, the Peace Officers Research Association of California. Without something like that, the retired cop is essentially a private citizen whose only recourse is a legal support group like USCCA, CCWSafe, or the organization I serve as an advisory board member, the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN.) Knowing there is an organization that will pay your legal fees takes one more worry out of the equation, and when you’re under life-or-death stress with a gun in your hand, leaves your mind free to focus on the critical decision: Shoot or don’t shoot.

To the attorneys who’ve been hiring me as an expert witness for 43 years, no one pays me to say how I think things should be. They pay me to explain how things are.

And this, God help us all, is How Things Are.

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