While most law enforcement officers are hard working, honorable, and law-abiding citizens, some are not. Just as with most jobs, there are those who handle the stress and pressures of the job well and in a healthy manner, and there are those who do not handle the job stressors well at all.
While most police officers are on the job to protect and serve, some have become jaded and have been known to use excessive force in carrying out their duties. If you have had a bad experience with police that you believe has violated your Constitutional and civil rights, you must contact an attorney who handles these very complex cases often known as “police brutality” or “excessive force” claims.
Protected by the Constitution
The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are intended to “safeguard the rights and liberties of private citizens against unreasonable intrusions by the government,” and that includes law enforcement officers. Americans enjoy certain rights under the Constitution and Bill of Rights including the right to be free from the abuse of police power, such as unlawful and unwarranted searches and the use of excessive force by the police.
Even with these constitutional and civil rights, some police officers and government entities have been known to abuse their power. Simply put, police brutality is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. When police officers abuse their power, they can be held liable in civil court for the damages they cause.
Examples of Police Misconduct and Police Brutality
Since the Rodney King incident in 1991, we have heard more and more about police brutality in America. We hear reports of police officers beating people and killing those they are apprehending. We even hear stories of police officers accidentally killing people they believed to be involved in a crime. There’s a wide spectrum of severity when it comes to police brutality, and it can take many forms:
- Excessive (or unnecessary) use of force
- Wrongful shooting a suspect, witness, or bystander
- False arrest
- Civil rights violations
- Inappropriate police dog use
- Illegal search and seizure
- Forced confessions
- Dangerous and unnecessary vehicle chases
- Prison abuse
- Falsified evidence
- Taser injuries
- Night stick injuries
- Wrongful death caused by police
Despite advances in civil rights in recent decades, police brutality continues to be a serious problem in this country.
Police Brutality Lawsuits
You should know that being injured in a scuffle with police does not make you a victim of police brutality. Not all police action against suspects is considered police brutality. Police brutality lawsuits seek to obtain compensation for the victim of police misconduct or excessive and unnecessary use of force that causes injury. Lawsuits also may act as a safeguard to ensure the police follow appropriate standards for use of force.
Here are some examples of police action that may be police brutality:
- When it comes to the use of force by police, law enforcement officers should only use force in proportion to the situation at hand and the threat posed by another person. For instance, if a police officer used force to apprehend a suspect who shoplifted a $50 article of clothing and was not contesting his arrest. And if that force resulted in a serious injury, the force used by the officer may be deemed excessive.
- Repeated shocking and excessive Taser use could cause permanent and potentially fatal injury, and Taser lawsuits can be filed as a result of inadequate training or inappropriate use of the stun guns. Again, a shoplifter who is not fighting back should not be shot with a Taser gun repeatedly because the alleged crime is disproportionate to the severity of the method to subdue.
- Police officers are trained to only draw their weapons as a last resort, and in situations where an officer negligently or intentionally injures or kills someone in an unjustified police shooting, compensation may be available through a wrongful death lawsuit.
- The police don’t unlimited authority to arrest or detain people. There must be reasonable suspicion and probable cause to detain someone for any length of time. People placed in jail or prison in an unjustified situation may suffer serious financial, physical, or emotional damage and may have a valid legal claim against the party or parties who detained him.
If you or someone you love has been victimized by police in Portland, Oregon or surrounding areas, please contact the Law Office of J. Clay McCaslin.