Every day is different for law enforcement officers, whether it’s investigating a traffic crash, responding to domestic violence calls, or facing a hostile suspect in a dangerous situation.
When these events result in court cases being filed, the investigating officer could eventually find him or herself in court to testify.
Working with Cullman Police Department (CPD) officers for the past two Fridays was Cullman trial attorney Champ Crocker, who presented his PowerPoint presentation, “Alabama Law Update,” to keep the officers prepared for what comes after an incident or arrest.
Crocker discussed the case of Aaron Smith, a Montgomery police officer recently convicted of Manslaughter for shooting a suspect who allegedly ran from and fought Smith. Smith’s defense was based on Alabama’s “stand your ground” law, which provides immunity for using defensive force, as long as the force is reasonable.
Although officers are generally held to the standard of using “reasonable” force, the State of California recently restricted the police use of force. The new California law requires that law enforcement only use deadly force when “necessary” — instead of the previous wording of “reasonable.” Crocker’s class also reviewed new Alabama laws on service animals, protection from abuse orders, and various misdemeanor and felony offenses.
Cullman Police Patrol Cpt. J.P. White said he enjoyed being able to engage during the classes.
“We were able to ask questions and he could explain things in the way of how they look at things and we look at things,” White said. “It was very informative and really helped us out.”
Crocker taught the Cullman police class, as well as classes earlier this year for the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and Alabama Reserve Officers. Crocker said he enjoys hosting the classes from an attorney’s point of view, adding that there’s an ongoing need for officer training that extends beyond the patrol beat and into the courtroom.
“This is the first time I’ve taught this particular class for the Cullman Police Department, but we have done other classes for local law enforcement,” he said. “Training like this gives officers the information they need to properly investigate. Every year, the legislature enacts new laws or change existing laws. Our courts review cases and apply the law to the facts in a given case. In 2019, the Alabama legislature passed a number of new laws dealing with everything from seatbelt violations to capital murder.”
“We appreciate Champ taking time out of his schedule to come and give us the law update, CPD Sgt. Joey Duncan said. “I think it’s something important to do every year, and it is vital for officers to know any changes that have occurred. Champ always explains everything in a way that’s easy to understand and follow, and it’s also engaging. We really enjoyed him coming.”