Police officers can usually avoid criminal charges after fatal shootings by claiming they feared for their lives. Even if the fear was not reasonable, it’s usually a good enough excuse to ensure that the officer in question doesn’t face charges.
A Washington man, however, is facing hate crimes charges for threats he made against police officers while being booked into the Pierce County jail on unrelated charges.
Mark Tolson, 55, allegedly referred to the 2009 murder of police officers during booking, telling a deputy that the deceased Lakewood officers “got what they deserved”, according to The News Tribune. He then allegedly threatened to make other officers “like them” when he got out of jail. Tolson told another officer that he “was a racist white cop.”
Police Rarely Punished for Killings, But Black Man Faces Hate Crimes Charges for Threatening CopsClick to tweet
Tolson had been brought in on charges stemming from a domestic incident. The hate crimes charge of malicious harassment has now been added to his charges.
Tolson’s threats are inexcusable, but it is worrisome that one man’s words are deemed more worthy of punishment than the fatal actions taken by police officers.
As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014:
New research by a Bowling Green State University criminologist shows that 41 officers in the U.S. were charged with either murder or manslaughter in connection with on-duty shootings over a seven-year period ending in 2011. Over that same period, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 2,718 justified homicides by law enforcement, an incomplete count, according to experts.
And many of those who are charged either aren’t convicted or are given short sentences upon conviction. For example, ex-cop Peter Liang was convicted in the fatal shooting of unarmed Akai Gurley, but was still spared jail.