Police brutality incidents are thankfully rare, but not as rare as we would all like them to be. Unless there is strong evidence, like a video tape, it will be a serious challenge for a victim of brutality to successfully prosecute an action for damages against police officers and the officers’ employers. The police officer is the person the public relies on to uphold the law and provide protection from crime. The public is generally aware of the potential police misconduct and more than willing to set things right when abuses can be proven. Still, law enforcement prevails in two out of every three cases over citizens who claim officers have physically injured them.
The legal remedies for excessive force by police officers includes federal civil rights actions brought under Section 1983. Federal Civil Rights Act of 1871. 42 USCA § 1983. In general, any citizen may use force in self-defense or in defense of others, and any citizen may use a limited amount of force to protect property. Police officers may also utilize force to apprehend individuals whom they have probable cause to believe have engaged in unlawful conduct, even if the individuals are not presently threatening such conduct. In short, police officers are privileged to use force against an individual who is not then endangering persons or property. Yet, this right extends only to the use of reasonable force. What constitutes reasonable force will always depend on the circumstances of the particular case. Deadly force may be reasonable when the officer is seeking to subdue an armed individual who is threatening the officer or members of the public. On the other hand, in a situation where the individual is handcuffed and willingly following the police officer’s directives, even a single punch may be unreasonable. When does a police officer’s use of force during arrest become excessive so as to constitute a violation of constitutional rights? That is a question that can only be answered on a case by case basis. However, factors to look for include pushing a suspect to the floor and applying handcuffs too tightly and leaving them that way for several hours, kicking or beating a person who has surrendered to the officer, or sending a K-9 unit in for an attack when a person is not resisting arrest. Any of these situations could constitute the use of excessive force.
If you have been involved in an injury incident involving excessive use of force, and you have strong credible evidence to back up your claim of a serious injury, please call and speak with one of our experienced lawyers.