In all situations, police are allowed to use a certain amount of force to protect people nearby and defend themselves. However, when police are investigating crimes for minor violations of city ordinances such as vending without a license, it is not easy to defend any use of force at all. There are relevant procedures for all law enforcement personnel that dictate when the use of force is appropriate, and deviation from these guidelines may be grounds for a police brutality lawsuit.
An altercation in Riverside California began with a woman who was allegedly selling flowers without a permit. While officers are allowed to give citations for this offense, the interaction between this one suspect and the police turned violent without good reason.
Flower vendor beaten by Riverside County police
A woman was selling flowers illegally outside of a graduation ceremony at a local high school. Local laws in effect in the town state that street vendors must have a permit, which she did not. A Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy made contact with her and a number of other vendors in the area to give out citations. A statement from the police alleges that the woman was being uncooperative by giving false names, attempting to walk away, and pushing the officer. However, a video of the incident captured one of the police officers grabbing and pulling her arm, then her hair, and slamming her into the ground. Flowers are seen scattered on the ground during this violent episode.
The video caused an uproar when it was posted on social media, but the Sheriff’s Department released a statement defending the officer’s actions. They stated that force was warranted based on the fact that the rest of the people who were cited in the area were cooperative and this one woman had escalated the situation verbally and physically. The Sheriff’s Department also claimed that the video did not capture the initial argument between the victim and the officer that incited a violent response. After the incident, approximately fifteen people in the area received citations for violation of the city’s vending ordinance, while the victim was also charged with obstructing justice.
The minimal level of force necessary to make an arrest
It is difficult to imagine how handing out citations for vending without proper credentials could require any kind of force at all. Even in situations where someone is verbally arguing with the police, the officers only need to give the person the citation and walk away. All of the relevant information about court dates and fines is already printed on the ticket, so there is little need to exchange information.
Many departments and law enforcement agencies around the country publish guidelines which dictate the level of force that can be used during an arrest. Police are generally limited to the amount of force necessary to detain a suspect and prevent injury to themselves or others nearby. In situations where someone is violating a city ordinance that has nothing to do with violent crime, and only given a fine, no physical force should be used at all.
In situations where someone is hurt during an arrest for a non-violent crime, a police brutality lawyer can file claims for violations of civil rights in federal court based on excessive use of force. After a trial or through a settlement agreement, the amount paid to a victim is often related to the severity of the injuries that result and the level of deviation from proper police protocols. Cases such as the one recounted above would also be a good starting point for a plaintiff, as there is video evidence of police violence and most jurors would not react favorably to the idea that a woman selling flowers needed to be thrown to the ground by an officer.
Get help from a police brutality lawyer today
If you have been injured by the police while vending without a license or any other non-violent crime, it may be possible to file a lawsuit. There are police brutality lawyers in Riverside and other parts of Southern California who can take your case.