Across the nation, there is still some debate among authorities about what exactly police brutality constitutes. Sometimes incidents happen that seem like an injustice, but no one ends up taking responsibility for them because the situation falls into a grey area. 


In Burlington, 19-year old Mbyayenge Mafuta had the police called on him for allegedly trying to break into a car with a screwdriver. When the police showed up, bodycam footage shows Mafuta becoming very defensive and confrontational. He first tries to run away, and then ultimately attacks the two police officers. 


Mafuta is then tased and thrown to the ground. Following the incident, many were critical of the police’s behavior, noting that one of the police officers forgot to turn on her body cam footage, preventing the public from seeing exactly what happened. 


While many lament the fact that a young man was tased and then faced with criminal charges that will likely follow him for the rest of his life, the police ended up sticking by their view that everything they did was justified. 


In this example, the young man arrested likely won’t ever be able to sue the cops for police brutality because: 


  • The police had probable cause: Someone in the neighborhood witnessed him break into their car and called the police. 
  • He aggressively resisted arrest and tried to escape
  • He then allegedly punched and choked a female police officer


Things may change in the future, but for now, you can’t commit a crime and then attack police officers who try to arrest you. 


Are there laws against police brutality? 


The United States Constitution is the main thing that keeps police departments in check. The 4th Amendment prevents unreasonable search and seizure, and the 8th Amendment prevents cruel or unusual punishment. 


Of course, the meaning of “unreasonable,” or “cruel” depends on the situation. In the case of Mafuta, tasing a young man wasn’t considered cruel because he resisted arrest and became violent. 


Likewise, oftentimes when someone is shot by the police, it’s not considered to be “brutality” if the person was shooting the officers first. 


Is it hard to sue a cop in Vermont? 


In any state, it’s hard to sue the police unless you have a very strong case. Before you begin the legal process of suing a police department, consider that they have much more resources to fight legal battles than you. Police officers are also granted “qualified immunity” which means that they’re allowed to do certain things in the name of enforcing the law. In other words, they’re allowed to be violent or forceful if they can argue it was necessary to protect themselves or de-escalate a situation. These things can be tough to argue in court. 


If you feel like you were mistreated by the police, get in touch with an experienced Vermont-based police brutality lawyer today. They can tell you if you have a case, and potentially get you compensation.