While police are allowed to use a certain level of force to apprehend suspects and prevent them from escaping, there have been plenty of incidents where a detained person is injured. Many times police will unnecessarily punch or kick detained people, or even shoot them with a taser. An incident at a mall in Madison Wisconsin shows how this can happen.
Woman is beaten while detained at East Towne Mall
An arrest that turned violent and was recorded on video received millions of views between Facebook and YouTube when the witness posted it to those sites. The incident occurred at the East Towne Mall on a weekday afternoon. A woman present in the mall named Genele Laird had been arguing with security guards about her stolen phone and apparently made threats. Someone called 911 on her, and there were also concerns that she was armed with a knife. A man who knew Laird through mutual friends had warned her about the police showing up, but he eventually recorded the video on his phone.
When the Madison Police arrived, the first officer on the scene begins to struggle with Laird. When a second officer arrives, he immediately begins to hit Laird in the leg several times as the struggle continues. They bring her to a nearby sidewalk and she is punched and kneed several times, as well as shot with a taser. After the encounter, Laird was charged with disorderly conduct while armed, resisting a police officer, battery to a police officer, and discharge of bodily fluids. The man who recorded the video did acknowledge that Laird had engaged in criminal activity, but was concerned about the way the arrest was handled and the level of violence used. The video also seemed to suspiciously disappear from Facebook, which generated concern that the Madison Police may have been somehow involved in getting it removed. The man who posted the video later received a message from someone claiming to be a detective with the Madison Police that wanted to speak with him, which he refused.
How much force counts as excessive?
A case such as this can be difficult to determine a clear answer of who is at fault for any resulting injuries. The victim was engaged in criminal activity, and it seems that the police would have probable cause to make an arrest based on the reports from the 911 call and her actions. However, there are guidelines regarding the level of force that can be used in any situation. It seems that the two much larger male officers may have used an excessive amount of force to detain one much smaller woman. The punches and use of a taser by the second officer on the scene were almost certainly not necessary to subdue her and make an arrest.
In general, the rules regarding use of force by officers state that they are generally limited to the amount of force required to prevent further injury to those nearby or to defend themselves. In situations where someone is already detained, it can be hard to sell the idea that the police need to throw punches or use a taser when someone is already being held by another officer. The best way to try to make an argument for excessive use of force is to retain any videos, pictures, or other evidence related to the arrest and speak with a lawyer about the specific circumstances that caused the police to resort to violence. Determinations need to be made on a case by case basis, but there are relevant federal laws that protect people from police violence and they can be sued when injuries occur.
Lawyers are ready to talk with you
If you have been injured by the police during an arrest in Madison, or any other part of Wisconsin, there is legal help available. A police brutality lawyer can speak with you about the possibility of filing a lawsuit or other options based on your personal situation.