Most police officers join the force in an effort to make the world a better and safer place (i.e. for a noble cause). Their moral and ethical values are what drives them to cut down the crime rate and protect the innocent and vulnerable from becoming the next victim of theft, assault, abuse, murder, rape, etc. Unfortunately, many “noble” officers become too committed to their role and begin to engage in inappropriate and illegal behavior in order to protect their community.
The idea that a police officer’s moral values and dedication to his/her force can lead to misconduct and corruption can be seen in the case involving 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In 2012, Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was out patrolling the area. Zimmerman was accused of racial profiling after he used the teen’s race and attire to follow him. It turns out, Martin had been walking home from a local convenience store with a hooded sweatshirt on. Zimmerman, who felt it was his moral obligation to follow the “suspicious” teen, shot him after a tussle broke out.
Now, although Zimmerman was not employed by any law enforcement agency at the time of the incident, a similar scenario could occur involving a police officer. The reality is, there are many police officers who use racial profiling as their sole basis for making an unlawful stop, conducting an unlawful search, and/or deploying their firearm. For instance, an Illinois police department was sued after officers stopped a black college student at an area rest stop and one allegedly threatened to “blow his head off.”
Illinois Officer Allegedly Threatens to Shoot Black College Student While He was Stretching His Legs at a Rest Stop
Jaylan Butler, 20, had been traveling with his college swim team when the group decided to stop at a rest area to stretch their legs. When Butler was returning to the bus, he was approached by several law enforcement vehicles with flashing lights that pulled in front of him [Source: Buzzfeed News]. Although Butler was “confused” by what was happening right in front of his eyes, he “knew exactly what to do in that moment and dropped his cell phone, put his hands up, and dropped to his knees.”
The officers yelled for Butler to get down and don’t move, although the lawsuit claims officers said it in a much more vulgar context. The officers then handcuffed the swim team member. Butler alleged in the suit that one officer pressed his knee into his back while another pressed on his neck. Another officer was accused of putting his gun to Butler’s forehead and threatened that if he didn’t stop moving, he would “blow his head off.” Officers later determined that Butler was not the person they were looking for but kept him in their patrol car for a few minutes as they claimed he resisted.
ACLU of Illinois said that the encounter has resulted in Butler feeling “unsafe, sacred, and anxious” anytime he sees a police officer.
Many police officers across the nation, even those who claim they are looking to serve and protect their community, have been recognized over the years for engaging in various types of behavior that would be classified as police misconduct. While some have been acknowledged for shooting an unarmed civilian, others have been called out for the brutal beatings they engage in involving a compliant suspect.
While it is the duty of a police officer to protect and serve, their actions should never push past the imaginary line that divides what is legal and what is not. In the event an officer of the law abuses their power and authority to harm another, they should face the consequences that their unjust or warranted act carries with it. In the event you or someone you know was harmed by an officer who was over-policing, contact USAttorneys.com and let us find you a police brutality lawyer in your city who is prepared to defend your rights.