EXPLAINER: Why outside prosecutors review killings by police

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Flowers have been placed on a banner as demonstrators gather outside the Brooklyn Center (Minn.) Police Department on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, to protest Sunday's fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BOSTON – A white former police officer is being charged with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, just three days after the Black man was shot during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb.

The swift probe and announcement of a charge against Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, was handled by a prosecutor from outside Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where Potter shot Wright.

The decision to hand over the case was made almost immediately by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who said county attorneys in the Minneapolis area last year adopted the practice of referring police shootings to other jurisdictions in order to “avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest."

The Hennepin County attorney's office has also taken the back seat in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer on trial in the death of George Floyd. At the request of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison, the state’s first Black attorney general, took over the Chauvin prosecution.

Bringing in outside prosecutors to review police shootings is a practice that has gained steam across the U.S. in recent years in an effort to eliminate the appearance of bias.

Here's a look at the practice and the reason behind it:


Local prosecutors and police officers work alongside each other every day to build cases, and prosecutors rely on officers' testimony and evidence they've gathered to try to convict defendants at trial. That cozy relationship has long led to complaints that prosecutors can't possibly be objective when deciding whether to bring charges against officers in departments with whom they work closely.