SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – In a case of semantics, the 9th Circuit ruled 2-1 that there is no legal significance between “reasonable belief” and “probable cause” in a Portland officer’s use of deadly force against the driver of a luxury sedan with tinted windows.
Officers Jason Sery and Sean Macomber pulled over James Jahar Perez for failing to use his turn signal while driving through a working-class neighborhood known for drug activity. Sery, acting on an alleged “reasonable belief” of danger during the traffic stop, shot and killed the unarmed driver.
Perez’s estate sued the city, claiming Portland’s policy of using deadly force based on reasonable belief is unconstitutional, because Supreme Court case law requires “objective probable cause.”
The divided panel affirmed the lower court’s ruling for the city, finding that there is no meaningful difference between the phrases.
“Both standards are objective and turn upon the circumstances confronting the officer rather than an officer’s mere subjective beliefs or intentions, no matter how sincere,” Judge O’Scannlain wrote.
The majority also rejected the estate’s claim that Portland failed to adequately train its officers in the use of deadly force. However, the circuit remanded to determine whether the city’s alleged “longstanding” use of deadly force in situations not requiring deadly force had deprived Perez of his constitutional rights. See ruling.