Gadsden County is in the northwestern part of Florida. The county is approximately 32 miles long and 22 miles wide and is home to about 46,000 residents with an average household income close to $40,000 from 2017 data collected. Gadsden County is no stranger to police corruption and violation of person’s rights through situations represented by an Officer Corder who stole money from a victim during an arrest, and a Corrections Officer Hawkins, who inappropriately engaged in sex with a prison inmate in exchange for contraband, for example. These, and other situations have left a mistrust in the community. Presently, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department is fortifying efforts to rebuild lost community trust. In response to internal checks and balances, 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 Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office. The Internal Affairs detectives investigate claims such as:
- 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.
Community Outreach Initiatives.
Some initiatives undertaken in Gadsden include: 1) Faith Behind Bars Re-entry Initiative – The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office is seeking Justice Assistance Grant funding through the US Department of Justice as part of its objectives to implement the Gadsden County Jail Faith Behind Bars Reentry Program to enhance public safety and successfully transition inmates back into the community; 2) Cops N Summer Camp – was a week long camp teaching kids 8-13 how to stay on the straight and narrow path, and out of trouble; and 3) D.A.R.E – Drug-Abuse-Resistance-Education: an educational program to reduce the use of drugs, violent behavior negatively affecting the community, and gang membership.
Active Officer Training.
The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office has also reviewed and adopted policy and general guidelines for applying force that 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 resistive person.
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.
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 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.