The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, but one event will shape the way history records it. There was finally a public outcry over police brutality, especially with regard to people of color. The Black Lives Matter movement went from several years of struggle and some recognition to being in the spotlight. All over the United States, excessive force used by police was in the news, and Black Lives Matter protests were held in solidarity. With greater public awareness came an outcry for accountability. No longer were victims of police brutality struggling on their own for justice. Protests in every state sent a message to police officers who use excessive force. The public is watching.

Police Misconduct

Police misconduct can be defined as behavior that violates a member of the public’s civil rights. The misconduct may be physical assault, excessive use of force, racial profiling, planted evidence, unreasonable searches, and other equally egregious behavior. Sometimes a police officer’s behavior may be rooted in brutal and unfair techniques for subduing suspects, such as chokeholds. In nearly all cases of police brutality, a less violent solution was possible. 

Unarmed Victims in Illinois 

In October 2020, news reports described a police officer in Waukegan who shot and killed an unarmed passenger in a vehicle and shot and injured the driver. According to the police report about the incident, the Illinois officer feared for his life because the vehicle was allegedly reversing toward him. It doesn’t take an expert in criminology to wonder if shooting the vehicle’s tires would have been a more effective way to stop the vehicle than killing a passenger and injuring the driver. In too many cases of police brutality, a police officer reacted violently without attempting less lethal means of stopping a potential suspect.

Disabled Victims in Illinois

Police officers are trained to act quickly and to use force as needed to resolve situations. Generally speaking, they do not receive training on social-work or verbal techniques to de-escalate situations involving mental health or disability. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one-half of the people who suffer or die from police brutality have a disability. When people with disabilities are treated as hostile suspects, they may not have the life skills to explain or defend themselves and may not understand how to be compliant with police commands. In these situations, victims are especially vulnerable to a police officer’s ability to interpret a unique situation and react appropriately.

How Can Victims Get Justice?

Victims of police brutality are legally entitled to sue the police department. Bringing a case to the courts is complicated, and victims must always face pro-police bias. However, in many situations, video footage is available of the incident, either from a police body or vehicle camera. The challenge is in confronting preconceptions that the police are always right. Legal advice is the only route to getting justice. A lawyer who specializes in police brutality cases will best represent your case and defend your civil rights.