On Sunday, as the world now knows, a young Black man was shot and killed during a traffic stop by a Brooklyn Center police officer. By Wednesday, the veteran cop who pulled the trigger had resigned and was arrested and criminally charged.
That all happened so quickly, in part, because of important policy changes made about a year ago in the way police use-of-force cases are handled in the Twin Cities.
The procedural shifts moved the investigations of these types of cases to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and, if requested, to another county or the state attorney general for consideration of charges.
Both steps are designed to prevent conflict-of-interest issues with gathering evidence and making charging decisions. The changes have provided much-needed transparency and credibility — and hastened the delivery of justice.
Using those new procedures, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman referred the Wright case to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, and on Wednesday Orput charged former Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter with second-degree manslaughter.
The most recent heartbreaking case left 20-year-old Daunte Wright dead after Potter shot and killed him during a traffic stop. As a result, the Brooklyn Center city manager was fired and the police chief resigned.
Before leaving his position, former Police Chief Tim Gannon had said that the shooting was accidental and that Potter had intended to fire her Taser but drew her gun instead. Wright, who was unarmed, was stopped for having expired license tabs. Police were attempting to arrest him because he was found to have an open arrest warrant.
Potter's case is at least the third in which a U.S. law enforcement officer will face criminal charges for killing someone in what officers have claimed or claim are accidents involving a gun and a Taser.
It's reassuring that the BCA — not the Brooklyn Center Police Department — investigated the shooting. And Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman rightly referred the case to Orput's office.
In addition, police body camera footage was made public hours after the incident — not weeks or months later as has been known to happen in previous similar police-involved cases.
Community members will likely continue to debate the severity of the charges — and they could be changed as more is learned about the case. None of this, meanwhile, is meant to suggest the new wounds opened by Wright's killing are suddenly healed. Far from it. And the pain is greater because his death comes against the backdrop of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd.
But the process has so far worked as intended.