Various overseers to law enforcement professionals write guidelines and protocols on how much force is necessary to apprehend criminals or diffuse dangerous encounters. In Detroit where so many years of brutality and excessive force complaints have been garnered, the need for these guidelines surfaced decades ago in 2002 when the Department of Justice investigated Detroit Police Department and found several areas of concern on the use of excessive force. Fast forward to 2019 and there are still complaints of police brutality through excessive force finding their way to courtrooms such as the most recent complaint in March 2019 of false arrest and use of excessive force where video evidence shows police yelling at man to get out of his car, and upon his refusal, officers opened the door and broke car windows with the driver’s young son in the backseat. They continued in an aggressive manner with the traffic stop and tased the driver and repeatedly punched him (evidence shows close to thirty times), while he was on the ground. A witness who videotaped the encounter said the officers were smiling and laughing as they walked back to their car. The officer in this complaint is off duty until the full investigation is completed. Developing policies and mandating training based on those policies will not work if officers do not comply with those policies. This epidemic of police brutality continues to erode trust and faith in the communities where officers take oaths to protect and serve the citizens like those in Detroit Michigan.
Template for use of force movement.
The National Institute of Justice set out general examples of use of force guidelines, which have been used as a template for individual departmental policies expanding on the continuum of force necessary during police encounters: 1) officer presence; 2) officer commands with no physical force; 3) officer uses bodily force; 4) officer uses less lethal strategy to include batons, chemical sprays, taser for examples; 5) officer uses incapacitating holds; and 6) officer uses lethal force by use of fire arm to gain control.
De-escalation training important in use of force reduction and not mandatory in Michigan.
The Department of Justice defines “de-escalation” as “the strategic slowing down of an incident in a manner that allows officers more time, distance, space and tactical flexibility during dynamic situations on the street.” Training methods for police officers include:
1) Listen respectfully. Don’t argue or interrupt. People calm down when they feel they are being listened to and taken seriously.
2) Crowd control. Don’t allow an audience to gather. If two people are having an argument, isolate them from friends or family members to reduce aggressive behavior.
3) Courteous example. Use courteous, professional language to uphold the idea that talk must be calm and respectful.
4) Body language. Be aware not to use intimidating body movements.
5) Control encounter. Reduce offensive speech, cursing, and yelling by explaining that acceptable language would more likely get the point across.
6) Don’t publicly humiliate anyone—especially when others are watching. Be respectful of embarrassing questions and pat downs.
7) Don’t waste time and energy trying to convince a citizen that he’s wrong and you’re right. Do what you need to do without becoming defensive.
8) Remember that “broken record” is a useful way to achieve two goals—conveying the message that you’re in charge while keeping the lid on a potential conflict. “Broken record” means repeating a message as many times as needed: “I’m writing a citation.
Excessive force violates civil rights.
The use of excessive force is a violation of civil rights laws that are in place to protect citizens against arbitrary and negative action from law enforcement officers. 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 is based on individual department policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force in any given situation and is often subjective to the instance when force is used.
Detroit Police Department use of force policy.
The Detroit Police Department’s Use of Force Policy 304 – outlines the improper use of authority and excessive or unjust use of force that undermines legitimate police authority present under the badge and is detrimental to law enforcement in the community because of the mistrust that it creates. According to this policy “Officers who use excessive force or an unauthorized use of force shall be subjected to discipline, possible criminal prosecution, and/or civil liability. Use of force is only authorized when it is objectively reasonable and for a lawful purpose. Research indicates that one of the most common factors found in both police excessive or unjustified use of force, and officer injuries and fatalities during force encounters, is an officer’s perceived compulsion to press forward rather than to disengage (e.g., “back off”) and explore other options. The most appropriate response choice to a situation often involves de-escalation, disengagement, area containment, surveillance, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, or calling in specialized commands. Following any use of force resulting in a citizen’s injury, officers shall notify a supervisor and ensure that appropriate medical aid and/or emergency medical service is rendered as soon as possible.”
Contact a lawyer.
If a police officer in Detroit Michigan improperly applied a level of force that resulted in severe or lasting injury, or death, contact an experienced police brutality lawyer to find out if you have a claim for damages. A legal professional will be able to ascertain if any of your civil rights have been violated and if there is a cause of legal actions in criminal or civil court.