Philadelphia’s name is derived from the Greek words “brotherly love” but what happens when the people charged to protect that city are not about love, but instead exhibit repeat actions of police brutality, and use excessive force when addressing crime. In 1978 Philadelphia became the first city to have a lawsuit brought against them from the U.S. Department of Justice citing policy brutality after the beating of Delbert Africa that was broadcast worldwide; the pattern continued with the burning of a city block of 61 homes in 1985 when C4 was dropped from a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter killing 11 people including 5 children. Fast forward to the year 2000 when Thomas Jones’ recorded arrest revealed excessive force by police officers continuing to beat on the suspect after he was subdued following exchange of fire and a car chase. Almost two decades later negative attention still overshadows the Philadelphia Police Department as claims against violations of civil rights continue to crop up. Data has suggested that between 2013 and 2016 more than 100 cases citing allegations of misconduct against city police have gone without punitive action. Internal Affairs is supposed to investigate all claims within 75 days of the complaint and many have remained open for a year or more without resolution (Marin & Briggs, 2018).
Police 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 given to police to use force while apprehending criminals, utilizing both physical and psychological methods, to deter and reduce crime is based on policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force in any given situation and is often subjective to the instance when force is used. The use of excessive force is a violation of civil rights laws that are in place to protect citizens against arbitrary and negative action that deprives them of their liberty and life pursuits without the due processes of the law.
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. Policy 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 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.