Police brutality is the use of excessive or unnecessary force on a member of the public or a suspect by law enforcement. For many decades police brutality went unnoticed by the general public. People of color had long been the victims of police brutality. The first time that excessive force was captured on camera for all to see was in 1991 when Rodney King was beaten in Los Angeles by multiple police officers after a car chase. Thirty years later, body and vehicle cameras are still regularly capturing images of police brutality.

Police Brutality in Iowa

According to the ACLU, Des Moines law enforcement used excessive force on peaceful protestors (including children) at a Black Lives Matter event in July 2020. It is unclear whether law enforcement leadership was a part of the problem or was unable to get control of it. In either case, no one can deny the irony of police officers using unnecessary force on citizens who are protesting the use of excessive force by police officers.

The Iowa legislature has recognized the reality of unlawful police behavior and has passed House File (HF) 2647 in an attempt to reform and add accountability to law enforcement. Notably, the legislation bans the use of chokeholds on suspects in most circumstances and enables the Iowa Attorney General to charge police officers who kill a suspect in their custody, even without a local lawyer’s involvement in a case.

Charging Police Officers With Excessive Force

The passage of HF 2647 was an important step forward for the protection of Iowa’s citizens. Police officers can and should be charged with using unnecessary or excessive force on the public. Without accountability, there can be no improvement. But even when local or state prosecutors bring charges of police brutality to courts with evidence (such as body-camera video footage), judges and juries often do not convict. This leaves victims without public or legal recognition of the crime committed against them. Legal advice is needed when courts, judges, and juries fail to bring justice.

Getting Legal Help

It is intimidating to challenge law enforcement, accuse a public servant of a crime, and figure out the steps needed to seek justice. When the accused criminal is a member of a respected group or the victim is a member of a minority group, the challenge is tougher. When the victim has no experience with the law or courts, it is even tougher.

If you have brought charges against a police officer but the verdict was “not guilty,” you do have recourse. You can sue the officer or the city. You must prove to a judge or jury that your version of events is more believable than the police officer’s version. A lawyer who specializes in police brutality can advise you about your rights, explain details of the case, and potentially bring a civil case to courts.