Should a police officer who left a severely intoxicated man in the backseat of his police car for nearly five hours on a hot day be prosecuted? The intoxicated person in that backseat died that day, which leaves his family challenging whether the police officer should be hired back on the force.
It is a controversial case in Pennsylvania that has already resulted in a successful wrongful death case for the victim’s family. The family settled the civil suit with the officer and department this year, but that settlement is not enough. They think the officer should also have some criminal and professional consequences to live with.
The Associated Press reports that in August of 2009, a 48-year-old mentally ill man left his continuing care residence, drank excessively and collapsed in a thrift store. The story takes a bigger turn for the tragic, though, when the police officer arriving on the scene placed the inebriated man in the back of his squad car. The man allegedly remained in the car for five hours on an 85-degree day. Eventually, he died in that car, according to reports.
Sources indicate that authorities who investigated the case recommended that the officer face criminal charges. Despite the recommendations, the state attorney general’s office in Pennsylvania decided in early 2010 not to charge the officer. The office, though, will not say why it ruled in this manner.
The man’s family is now fighting to make sure that the officer is not placed back on the local police force. Their wrongful death lawsuit wasn’t all about money; it was about sending a message, and they believe part of that message has to be that negligent officers don’t get their jobs back.
We will continue to follow this case and post an update if there are further developments.
Associated Press: “Kin fights rehiring Pa. officer in cruiser death,” Joe Mandak, Sep. 4, 2011