Editorial: How to ensure impartial investigations of officers' deadly force?

How confident can we be that police departments do a fair and adequate job of investigating deadly encounters between their officers and the public? How confident can we be that district attorneys and grand juries act impartially when deciding whether to charge officers with crimes?

Much of the nationwide discussion that has taken place in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles — and other unarmed black men around the country — has begun to crystallize around those questions. One result is a push for independent investigations conducted not by the police department or the local prosecutor but by outsiders.

On Thursday, for example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a report on police-community relations calling for, among other things, outside or independent investigators whenever a death occurs at the hands of a law enforcement officer. California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has introduced a bill — AB 86 — that would require the state Department of Justice to review fatal police shootings; local prosecutors would continue to decide whether to file charges. Candidates for the Los Angeles City Council have begun raising the issue, most notably in the 8th District. Ford was killed a block outside the district.