Insight: The United States is alone in the world in electing its prosecutors. This means every decision a prosecutor makes is a political one—doubly so when their names are in the headlines. Following the indictments of police officers in Baltimore and Cincinnati this year, there was widespread praise from activists and pundits for the prosecutors who held cops to task over the deaths of unarmed black men Freddie Gray and Samuel Dubose.
But those who saw the indictments as a step toward justice may have forgotten that fundamental tenet of American society: Everything is political. And to please both sides—the activists who seek indictments following nearly every police shooting, and agents of law enforcement who often believe they are infallible—investigations by independent prosecutors are essential when emotions are running high.