Each incident of a police officer using excessive force on a member of the public shares some characteristics with every other incident. Oftentimes an officer has a personal bias against a particular group of people and uses excessive force on suspects who belong to that group, regardless of the severity of the alleged criminal act. Tracing these officers’ work histories may show that repeated accusations of police brutality have been levied against an officer. Too often, when excessive force is used, multiple police officers are involved in the subduing of a single suspect. An officer who witnesses another officer clearly exerting excessive force is culpable for not stopping it.
The keyword to explore here is “excessive.” It is the overextension of an officer’s duty and of reasonable force for a situation that constitutes brutality. Use of force to subdue someone is reasonable only if an officer’s life is in danger and no other option is available. That is not how incidents of police brutality play out though. Victims of it are considered “suspects” by police until proven otherwise. They are sometimes unarmed innocent people. When excessive force is used and severe injury or death occurs, victims do not get a chance to establish innocence.
Police Misconduct Reported in Hawaii
According to the Hawaii Police Department’s annual Legislature Disciplinary Report on police misconduct, six times in 2020 an officer discharged a firearm in violation of police department policy or used deadly force without meeting the required criteria for it. Each time, the officer was given a 15-day suspension. The report does not refer to the victims of these acts of police brutality.
In 2019, the annual Legislature Disciplinary Report stated misconduct had occurred but no use of deadly force. The report describes the mistreatment of people in police custody and three incidents of an officer physically assaulting a member of the public. Other reported misconduct included an officer using a personal firearm while on duty, an officer discharging his firearm without reporting it, and several reports of officers physically abusing their spouses. Some of the officers who perpetrated these acts were discharged. No mention is made of the victims of the officers’ misconduct.
Without reviewing the Hawaii Police Department’s annual report for years prior to 2019, we can assume the reports contain more of the same. The public deserves justice for themselves and to have trust in Hawaii police officers, in every city on every island, from Honolulu to Kapa’a.
You Are Not Alone
The destruction of trust in the police is only one consequence of a history of police brutality. When people feel that dialing 911 for help from the police is more dangerous than their problem, the police force has lost the faith of its public. If you are reading this, you are looking for information and help. A lawyer who specializes in police brutality can explain your civil case and guide you through the process of getting justice.