Despite the fact that many police officers seem to believe they can do whatever they need to in order to apprehend suspects, there are rules called use of force protocols that govern police behavior. In general, these rules state that only a minimal amount of force is supposed to be used to detain suspects, make an arrest, prevent flight, or defend other people and police nearby. However, these rules are only a guideline, and in practice police tend to use as much force as they want without being seriously disciplined. An incident in Iowa City involving a very old suspect shows how police attempt to justify their actions.

Elderly man injured during welfare check

Iowa City Police initially responded to a welfare check on an elderly man when the man’s housemate had called. When they arrived on the scene, the 74 year old man was exiting a residence and trying to walk away. At this point, the police claim he became uncooperative, so they forcefully detained him and brought him to the ground. The victim claims that he suffered a black eye and bleeding as a result of the incident. His roommate was also shocked that police would think it was necessary to use force on an old man who could barely walk and posed no flight risk.  The man was eventually arrested for crimes including drug possession and and interference with official acts, and then taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries.

After reviewing the incident, the Iowa City Police Chief later claimed that the actions of the police on the scene were appropriate because the man was being uncooperative.

Use of force analysis

The ultimate inquiry in any excessive use of force case focuses on whether police actions were reasonable. In other words, was it reasonable for police to use a certain level of force given the objective circumstances?

Although this is a factual determination made in each case, there are a number of things that can be considered. The threat of violence from a suspect is always an important factor that allows police to use force. However, when suspects are unarmed or not violently resisting, there is usually little to no need to respond with violence. Police are also allowed to defend themselves and those around them to prevent injuries or property damage. In most cases the level of force allowed is only the minimum necessary to secure a situation. This means that when officers beat or injure people, there is usually little justification for these actions unless the suspect poses a serious threat of violence.

To get a proper use of force analysis, it is often necessary to file a civil lawsuit. As the previous story shows, departments rarely hold their own officers accountable for excessive use of force and merely make boilerplate statements that their actions were justified in the situation. Retaining a lawyer and bringing excessive use of force allegations into the courtroom remains the most effective way to make police answer for their actions and compensate victims.

Get local help now in the Iowa City area

If you have been injured by the police in Iowa City or anywhere within the state of Iowa, lawyers are ready to talk with you about your encounter. If an attorney believes that there may be an issue about excessive use of force, they can file a lawsuit on your behalf. Eells and Tronvold are available to provide these services, and they have been helping clients just like you in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas for years.