Multiple officers beat up a man at a Texas jail and were not charged for the attack, resulting only in a 56-day suspension for one of the officers. Excessive force is the most common form of police brutality and continues to be a danger to citizens and people who have to be taken to jail, even for short periods of time. This is one incident of a drunken individual getting the best of an officer’s emotions while he acted out in his altered state. Police reacting in a manner such as this are undermining all of the positive interactions of ethical, professional officers who handle encounters based on the “force necessary,” which in this case was excessive. The fact that criminal charges were not filed and Officer Donald Rodriguez was not fired is a blatant slap to other officers and the public. This was a case where de-escalation training would have yielded a different, more positive outcome for the victim of the excessive force, and the optics of the Garland Police Department.
Reasonable force. Police officer action will be judged on how they used a measure of force against a victim answering the questions “why” the level was needed and “how” it was delivered.
- “Why” – The reason why a police officer would use such force would include: severity of crime being committed; present or near future threat of suspect; scope of damages; and the level of resistance given by the suspect.
- “How” – A strike to a person’s head or face could result in: disfigurement; damage to blood vessels surrounding areas of temple, skull, jaw and ear; and death or spinal cord injuries from striking head or neck.
In the case at hand, the video reveals the use of excessive force and does not support the “why” since the suspect was already in custody and his physical state compromised by his drunkenness, or the “how,” because there did not need to be a physical strike in this case, and certainly not to the level that Officer Fernandez acted.
What is de-escalation training? 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.” De-escalation training is required in Texas, but no minimum hours have been set, and a Texas peace officer must also receive cultural diversity and special investigative topics and higher-level officers must meet additional requirements as set by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. 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. You’ll have an opportunity to state your case in court.” If a citizen argues, you refuse to take the bait. You simply repeat your message until the citation is written and your job is done.
How to file a civil suit in the absence of criminal charges. A civil wrong is called a “tort” resulting in some form of injury to the plaintiff, excessive force complaints often involve assault and battery, and sometimes negligence charges on a police officer. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 is used as a supporting law because police while acting “under color of law” violated a citizen’s rights. The burden of proof in a civil case falls on the plaintiff (the person suing) and the argument must be able to overcome the presumption that the officer acted with only the level of force necessary to control the situation. Hiring an attorney to handle a civil case for an excessive force complaint is the best option.
The actions that will go forward include: 1) the attorney acknowledging the right court for your claim based on the amount of damages being pursued, 2) filing a petition with that court in accordance with Texas Statutes of Limitation, 3) petition will be sent to the defendant(s) to be answered, 4) discovery will need to be gathered from both parties, 5) hearings may be set – either jury or non-jury hearing and 6) attorney will plead your case for the excessive force complaint against the police officer, and/or the Garland Police Department to receive a settlement or remedy for damages by the court.
Legal recourse. There are various federal and state laws that insure remedy to individuals who have suffered the negative effects of police brutality. If you feel you have been a victim of excessive force by a police officer in the Garland Texas area, you should seek professional legal assistance to file a claim and have them review your case to see if you can sue for 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 through excessive force.