Because the homeless are some of the most vulnerable members of society, they often become targets of police violence. Many police officers seem to think that no one will know or care about violence against the homeless, and that such victims have no way of holding them accountable. However, the laws that are meant to protect people’s civil rights in the United States apply universally. The police can be sued for an unjustified beating on any victim.
An incident in Fresno, California shows how the police can abuse their authority to hurt homeless victims.
Homeless man beaten on trumped up charges
A 52 year old homeless man was harassed and beaten in Fresno without any threat of violence or underlying crime. The incident was captured on video, which was turned over to the department’s internal affairs for review.
The video shows the homeless man lying on the ground and being held by one of the officers as another repeatedly punches him in the head and face area. He was also pushed back down when trying to get back up and held face down in the mud on the ground for several minutes. One witness who owns the convenience store near where these events took place said the man was asleep and not bothering anyone before the beating. It appeared that he was held on the ground for about 20 minutes throughout the interaction for no reason at all.
The Fresno Police Chief said he would immediately launch an investigation after a local news network shared the footage with him. The Fresno mayor also reacted to the video and said the incident was “very disturbing.”
The report that was filed by the two officers claimed that the homeless man was intoxicated and combative with them, which was disproved by the video. They were placed on desk duty while the results of the investigation were pending. Lawyers who have worked on similar cases recently also expressed concern about the department’s ability to investigate and discipline officers properly for such behavior, as the city of Fresno has not paid out settlements to other recent victims. The city and local police obviously want such incidents to go away without having to compensate victims appropriately.
Is it realistic for the homeless to take legal action?
While most people may initially think that the homeless cannot afford a lawyer, in some situations this does not matter. Many kinds of civil cases are brought on a contingent fee rather than a retainer fee. This means that a lawyer agrees to keep a portion of the money received from a settlement or judgment after the case is over, rather than accepting payment up front or billing the client hourly. Billing on a contingent fee is what allows most normal clients to be able to afford legal services.
There are federal laws which are meant to protect members of the public from improper government actions. These are commonly used against the police for actions such as excessive use of force, false arrest, and wrongful death. The fact that a plaintiff may be homeless does not affect their legal status regarding their ability to sue or the amount of money they can win. The value of a judgment or settlement agreement is usually based on factors such as the injuries that were dealt to a victim as well as the amount that the police deviated from acceptable conduct by their actions. In a case such as this, the victim may be entitled to a large sum of money as it seems there was no legitimate reason to arrest him and the police continually abused him for several minutes.
Speak with a police brutality lawyer now
If you have been injured or beaten by the police in Fresno or anywhere else in the state of California, there is help available. An experienced police brutality lawyer can speak with clients from all walks of life to give expert legal advice about how to file a lawsuit and receive compensation for injuries caused by police officers.