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Howard Brookins

Laws, contracts can give police buffer after fatal shootings

After fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times, white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke had the option of taking a day or two before internal investigators could interview him. Many cities stipulate a 48-hour wait. Officers in Baltimore get more — 10 days.

The waiting periods are among the shields specially tailored for officers under union contracts, state laws and departmental directives. Unions defend them, citing uniquely dangerous jobs requiring split-second decisions. Critics say they can give officers time to craft narratives favorable to themselves and must be scaled back if officers are to be held truly accountable when there's wrongdoing.