There are situations where it may be appropriate for a law enforcement officer to strike a suspect in the head or face area with a fist punch, but sometimes this physical force is unwarranted as has been noted in cases where a Lubbock police officer pulled over a person and headbutted them while they remained inside their vehicle.  Violent punching or hitting could be a heat of the moment, knee-jerk response, or a natural response to someone who has been trained in fighting sports.  Physical force is a subjective matter and one that is quite newsworthy with so many police officers either using excessive force, or other methods of police brutality, and/or victims making unsubstantiated complaints.  The problem with any kind of force is that the possibility of escalation is present.

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 policy that dictates what is considered “reasonable” force in any given situation and is often subjective to the instance when force is used.  Officers must exercise balanced judgment when choosing a force option, keeping in mind the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights. The balance analysis would include measures of force to possible injury versus gaining control of a situation.  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.

  1. “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.
  2. “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.

Lubbock Texas Police Department.

The mission of the Lubbock Police Department is to enhance the quality of life for its citizens by working with the public to prevent crime, enforce laws, preserve the peace and provide a safe environment.  The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 2.132(b)(6) prohibits racial profiling and the Lubbock Police Department complies with this law.  The Lubbock Police Department participates in de-escalation training for its police force.

Voluntary 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.”  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.

Laws in Texas.

Under Texas Penal Code 38.03 resisting arrest, search or transport is summarized by the idea that if you intentionally prevent or obstruct a peace officer from doing his job by making an arrest, search or transportation effort in the line of duty, even if it is unlawful, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and if you use a weapon a felony charge could be presented.  If you block or cover the part of your body that is being punched by a police officer, you are not violating any of the conditions in Texas Penal Code 38.03 but you may have to prove this in a court of law, and hiring an attorney to help with this matter is a prudent course of action.

Under Texas Penal Code 9.31 self-defense and Code 9.32 use of deadly force in defense of person is summarized by saying that self-defense in the case of an arrest or search being made by a peace officer, even if it is unlawful is not legal unless the peace officer uses greater force than necessary. The use of deadly force against a peace officer could be supported only if the claim would prove that the victim reasonably believed the deadly force was immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer’s (or other person’s) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.  Because these actions are subjective and directly related to a unique encounter, the claim will need to be proven to the higher authority in a court of law.  Hiring a lawyer for an excessive force complaint would be recommended in cases of this nature.

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 Lubbock, Texas, you should seek professional legal help 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.



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