The Tallahassee Police Department’s goal is to enforce laws, maintain peace, provide a good quality of life for all citizens, and reduce crime utilizing high professional standards of conduct. Tallahassee is one of the biggest cities in Florida, and home to the State Capital in Leon County, where police brutality through excessive force has found a place in news related to a police officer’s use of a taser on a 61-year-old woman, a brutal face pounding of a DUI suspect, and the firing of a police officer after a shooting incident last year. The Tallahassee Police Department officers are trained in response to resistance techniques and expected to use only reasonable force to bring control to a situation or a suspect, while protecting lives. A formal “Response to Resistance Policy” is in place to guide reasonable and legal options during police encounters. This policy was recently revised to ensure training, force applications of training, document non-compliant events, and internal reviews to measure and exceed state and national standards in Response to Resistance incidents.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Department is also invested in the lives of the community it serves and is fortifying efforts to rebuild lost community trust. In response to internal checks and balances necessary to police the police, internal affairs detectives review and investigate complaints and allegations of police brutality in its many forms and protect the public from inappropriate abuse of power by members of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The Internal Affairs detectives investigate claims regarding:
- Inmate deaths (with the Persons Unit);
- Inmate escapes;
- Allegations of corruption and perjury;
- Gross misconduct;
- Allegations of the use of excessive force or brutality;
- Use of lethal force;
- Violations of civil rights;
- Incidents requiring investigations that are lengthy, time consuming, involve multiple divisions/sections or when investigative resources are unavailable;
- Sexual harassment;
- Harassment in the work place.
General Guidelines for Applying Force include:
1) gain control by using verbal de-escalation where voluntary compliance is the desired outcome, and 2) only use amount of force necessary to overcome and control person resisting arrest.
Officer Considerations When Applying Force include:
1.The type and severity of the incident or crime at issue,
2. The person posing an immediate threat to the officer or others,
3. The person’s physical resistance to an arrest or other lawful detention,
4. The person fleeing from an arrest or other lawful detention,
5. The size, age, relative strength, skill-level, and physical condition (including injury or exhaustion) of the person and the officer,
6. The officer’s level of training and experience,
7. The number of persons and/or number of officers on the scene,
8. The duration of the incident, specifically in relation to the physical resistance offered by the person,
9. The time available to an officer to decide to use response to resistance levels of control/force,
10. The person’s proximity or access to weapons,
11. Environmental factors and other exigent circumstances, and
12. The officer’s perceptions at the time the decision to use force was made.
File Report on Use of Force:
File a report with supervisor regarding adherence to Response to Resistance.
Laws Addressing Police Misconduct:
Federal laws addressing police misconduct include criminal and civil statutes to cover officers’ action in State, county and local jurisdictions including prisons and jails. The laws are to protect all people in the United States whether they are citizens or not. Recent statistics from 2018 reveal that people have been killed by officers at least 342 days in that year revealing the need for continued changes to reduce excessive and deadly “use of force” to subdue criminals, and those violating laws in the United States.
The 2018 Florida Statutes Chapter 776 outlines the law on “Justifiable Use of Force” as it pertains to Police Officer activity in Section 776.05 whereby an officer is justified in the use of any force:
- Which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or herself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest;
- When necessarily committed in retaking felons who have escaped; or
- When necessarily committed in arresting felons fleeing from justice.
However, this subsection shall not constitute a defense in any civil action for damages brought for the wrongful use of deadly force unless the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by such flight and, when feasible, some warning had been given, and:
(a) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others; or
(b) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm to another person.
Police officers are allowed the “use of force” including hands, batons, tasers, or other weapons when necessary, and in accordance with officer training and department policy, to remove the threat of violence by subduing criminals. However, this broad-based authority given to police to use force while apprehending criminals, utilizing both physical and psychological methods, to deter and reduce crime is based on policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force in any given situation and is often subjective to the instance when force is used. The use of excessive force is a violation of civil rights laws that are in place to protect citizens against arbitrary and negative action that deprives them of their liberty and life pursuits without the due processes of the law.
Excessive force is not the only violation of police brutality: other actions include false arrest and wrongful imprisonment; wrongful search and seizure activity; sexual harassment; racial and gender discrimination; and general abuse against civilians. Police brutality is an illegal and actionable offense to be remedied by affected persons, when misguided police officers overstep the boundaries of their “allowed use of force” as defined by individual State and local policy based in part, upon the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
- Excessive Force – utilizing more physical force than necessary to subdue a criminal causing bodily harm or death.
- False Arrest and Wrongful Imprisonment – unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement by another acting in perceived accordance with the law.
- Wrongful Search and Seizure Activity – protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures” notwithstanding probable cause enabling a search warrant.
- 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.
If you identify with, or have been a victim of any of the listed forms of police brutality, talk to a Civil Rights legal professional who might be able to help you manage your damages. Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality or excessive use of force.