Police brutality, while it reveals itself in many forms, is most spoken about regarding actions of excessive force.  Excessive force and the use of firearms negatively impact relationships between police and the communities they serve. When police officers in , develop positive relations and are perceived as professional, caring, and fair to all, regardless of race, gender or religion, officers and communities benefit by mutual respect and trust. This positive interaction allows law enforcement personnel to perform their duties confidently with the knowledge that they have community support.  In theory, reductions in excessive force encounters are effective in trust building and create an effective police-minority relationship.  Other forms of police brutality include racial and gender bias-based profiling, sexual abuse/harassment, false arrest, and illegal search and seizure activities, all of which may lead to excessive force action.

Police killed 1,098 people in 2019.

Black people were 24% of those killed

Below is a map that shows all reported police violence in 2019.

Map source: mappingpoliceviolence.org

Incidence of excessive force.

Given the amount of police encounters that occur each day across the United States, the incidence of use of force is relatively low, contrasting with the increasingly high damages that occur when an encounter escalates to a level of excessive force leading to physical violence and officer actions resulting in death to United States citizens.  Recent excessive force death actions occurring during police encounters have grabbed the National spotlight and forced a much needed conversation toward necessary policing changes in 2020.  While many officers disapprove of the use of excessive force, a substantial minority of officers feel that they should be permitted to use more force then the law allows and a large percentage agreed that following the rule of law is sometimes counterproductive to effectively protecting , .

Proposed changes to law.

Firearms were most often cited in excessive force cases resulting in death, but in recent years, fatal excessive force has been accomplished through other physical means such as the chokehold, referencing the untimely death of Eric Garner in New York, and which lawmakers are currently working to outlaw as a means of controlled engagement during a police encounter.  The proposed language in the law:

“Establishes the crime of aggravated strangulation for police officers, or peace officers where such officer commits the crime of criminal obstruction to breathing or blood circulation, or uses a chokehold or similar restraint, and causes serious physical injury or death. The bill would make it so that a police officer who injures, or kills somebody through the use of “a chokehold or similar restraint” can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Lawmakers in , must answer the call of organized protests to act, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, toward new policies that address police brutality and bias-based profiling leading to excessive force actions.

By example, New York legislators defied police unions and began to approve a package of bills targeting police misconduct, including a ban on chokeholds. Democrats in Congress are currently unveiling legislation that would make it easier to prosecute police officers for actions of misconduct, and require law enforcement agencies to report data on the use of force.  Congress is currently creating legislation to address inequities in the criminal justice system that target minority populations. The Supreme Court may soon join into the national conversation on the protections that current legal doctrine shields law enforcement from regarding lawsuits for constitutional violations. Even when valid civil lawsuits are brought against government officials, including law enforcement officers, for civil rights violations, the US Supreme Court and federal courts have ruled  that officers can claim immunity if they did not violate “clearly established” laws or constitutional rights that a “reasonable” officer would be aware of at the time.

Reduction in crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reveals preliminary figures that indicate law enforcement agencies are effective throughout the nation evidenced by an overall decrease of 3.1 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first 6 months of 2019 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2018. The violent crime category includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States from January to June of 2019 dropped 5.6 percent when compared with data for the same time period in 2018. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Law enforcement does have a value across the United States as seen by these positive results in crime reduction, but policing needs to be addressed by department administration, and federal and state governments to reduce targeted population discrimination and negative escalated use of force encounters that lead to the ruination of a person’s life, physical harm and death.

Citizen rights.

Citizens in , should be aware of illegal activities surrounding police brutality among their police departments and take actions against them.  The color of law refers to an act done under the appearance of legal authorization, when in fact, no such right existed. The term is used in the federal Civil Rights Act, which gives citizens in , the right to sue government officials and their agents who use their authority to violate rights guaranteed by federal law and states:

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States, including , or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”

Police misconduct.

Police misconduct involves the violation of the civil rights of a person and often the violation of both State and Federal laws. While the outcomes of misconduct may not be as serious as excessive force, they are still illegal actions against citizens in , and include:

  • Use of excessive force without justifiable cause
  • Use of a lethal weapon without cause
  • Arresting through discrimination and racial profiling
  • Physically and verbally harassing citizens
  • Selectively enforcing laws based on the officer’s desires
  • Bribing lawmakers
  • Witness tampering
  • Tampering with evidence
  • False arrest
  • Sexual misconduct

Identify actions of police brutality.

  1. Excessive Force – utilizing more physical force than necessary to subdue a criminal causing bodily harm or death. Once the situation is controlled, there is no longer the need for force.
  2. Sexual Abuse/Harassment – unwelcome sexual advances, requests or demands for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by law enforcement in the course of their job.
  3. False Arrest and Wrongful Imprisonment – unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement by another acting in perceived accordance with the law.
  4. Wrongful Search and Seizure Activity – protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures” notwithstanding probable cause enabling a search warrant.
  5. Racial and Gender Discrimination – bias-based policing is the intentional practice by an individual law enforcement officer who incorporates prejudicial judgments based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, religious beliefs, or age that are inappropriately applied in the performance of his/her duties.

Allowed use of force.

Police officers allowed “use of force” including hands, batons, tasers, or other weapons when necessary, and in accordance with officer training and department policy, is among the many misinterpreted powers placed upon government employees, and a topic prevalent in our daily news.  The police in , are granted this broad-based authority to use force while apprehending criminals, utilizing both physical and psychological methods, to deter and reduce crime, based on policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force in any given situation and is often difficult to clarify and measure.  Police Officers in , must be held accountable if they overstep actions of a “reasonable person” during the tense and volatile encounters while performing their policing duties.

Excessive force.

Excessive force is the term used to describe continued force, even after a criminal has been subdued and the situation is being controlled to eliminate danger to others and oneself.  It has often been justified in high intensity situations where the potential for serious bodily harm, mass bodily harm, and death were present, leaving some unethical police officers in , to carry this over to encounters where no or low force is necessary.  , police department and many police departments across the United States engage in “de-escalation training” and “bias-based profiling education for their officers to avoid situations where undue injury and death occur, causing mistrust in communities that have been injured by repeated police brutality actions.

The need for transparency.

Advocates against police brutality have been working for decades to abolish laws and policies that weaken transparency and minimize the unintended consequences that occur almost daily in police actions against targeted populations. By example, New York Statute 50-a, blankets police misconduct in secrecy, shielding the personnel and disciplinary records of police officers from public view, keeping victims ignorant to an abusive officer’s history of dubious behavior unless someone previously took legal action against them. The Statute keeps records under department control “All personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion, are under the control of any police agency or department of the state or any political subdivision thereof including authorities or agencies maintaining police forces of individuals defined as police officers in section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law….. except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”  This includes , .  During recent protests across the nation, many officers concealed their badge numbers with strips of elastic or electrical tape. The department said that these were mourning bands, worn to honor colleagues who have died from Covid-19, but a civil liberties group demanded they be removed so that bad actors could be easily identified.

Privacy regulations around police conduct originated for the most part during the high-crime era of the 1970s, at the insistence of police unions. At the moment it came under review in 1976, a prosecutor named Joseph P. Hoey was virtually alone in opposing the legislation, on the grounds that it could eventually sow public mistrust which we see in current community interaction with police departments nationwide, including , .

Actions toward transparency.

  1. The use of video cams on officers. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., require law enforcement to have written policies to use, or receive funding for body-worn cameras, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many states have acknowledged that further action beyond wearing the cams is necessary, and analyzing the footage is a first step to changing the way officers perform their duties in the field.
  2. Public annual report available so community can view the financial priorities and community success of the department.
  3. Internal affairs in , steps to make sure police are acting professionally and within the scope of state and federal laws in correlation with department policies and procedures.
  4. Collaborative Reform is the initiative to address changes through organizational transformation by the analyses of policies, practices, training, and tactics around specific issues that may jeopardize the department’s legitimacy in the community.
  5. Statistics available for public view – Police Departments should try to improve community trust through transparency, while protecting the public it serves, and offering a birds-eye view of police encounters through data and statistics kept by each department.

Police brutality is illegal.

Policy brutality is an illegal and actionable offense to affected persons, when misguided police officers overstep the boundaries of their “allowed use of force” as defined by , policy, based on initial encounters that may violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Make a complaint.

When an individual is victimized by any form of police misconduct, or brutality action, in , it is imperative that they report it as soon as possible to the police force of the offending officer, and if necessary the U.S. Department of Justice, overseeing specific regions.

Importance of legal counsel.

Police Brutality Lawyers in , can assist with any type of formal complaint against a department and when necessary, take action to file a lawsuit against the officer who caused the illegal police brutality affront against an individual who has suffered damages due to those actions, including wrongful death claims.

If you’ve been the victim of police brutality in , , a police injury lawyer can help. Please call USAttorneys.com today at 800-672-3103 for a free consultation with a , police brutality lawyer.

 

Featured photo credit: Matthew T Rader – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.