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Excessive force and other types of police misconduct are serious issues that have gained more attention in recent years. Police officers have a difficult job, and most are ethical and committed to following the law. While they generally have broad discretion to take decisive actions under adverse circumstances, this does not mean they are above the law. When the actions of a police officer violate an individual’s constitutional rights, they must be held accountable.
We place a lot of trust in our police officers to keep our streets safe and protected. This is why when an officer breaches that trust, it is especially egregious. In this situation, victims often feel frustrated and powerless to do anything about it. This not only causes severe injury to the victim but also undermines the public trust in law enforcement. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to police brutality, you may have a right to compensation.
The police misconduct attorneys of Barrett & Farahany fight for those who have had their civil rights violated. Our careers are dedicated to providing a strong voice for individuals who have been mistreated by law enforcement officers and others in positions of authority. We have in-depth knowledge of civil rights laws and understand the complexities of police brutality/misconduct cases and similar actions. Our team puts our extensive experience to work to provide the skilled and personalized representation clients need and deserve.
42 U.S. Code, Section 1983 makes it illegal for government actors to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. This law was originally passed in 1871 and was intended to stop the oppressive acts of government officials as well as members of private vigilante organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, victims of police misconduct have the right to take legal action against federal and state officials who violate their civil rights.
Police misconduct can come in many forms, including:
Excessive force is one of the most common types of police misconduct complaints and often receives the most publicity. This is largely due to the fact that this type of violation tends to result in the most severe physical injuries to the victim. The widespread use of video cameras has brought increased attention to police brutality. One of the most notorious cases occurred in Los Angeles in 1991 when four LAPD officers were caught on video beating Rodney King, an African-American motorist who was pulled over for speeding.
In the past several years, we have seen a disturbing number of high-profile police brutality cases in many parts of the country. Officers in many jurisdictions are now required to wear body cameras. This, along with cell phone cameras, provides a much greater opportunity to capture video evidence, which is important in proving this type of case.
Several types of excessive force may be considered police brutality. Examples include:
Whether or not the use of force by a police officer was excessive depends largely on the facts and circumstances of the case. It is important to note that the intentions or motivations of the officer are not the deciding factors. Even if an officer had good intentions, but their force was unnecessary, that can still be considered excessive force.
Law enforcement officers are not allowed to arrest individuals without a warrant or probable cause. When this occurs, it is a violation of their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. The Fourth Amendment also prohibits law enforcement from illegally searching and seizing your property by lacking a warrant or probable cause. A false arrest can also give rise to other civil rights violations, such as wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Numerous independent studies have shown that police officers are more likely to unfairly target African-Americans and Hispanics than they are to target other groups. For example, a Chicago Police Accountability Task Force study found that Hispanic and African-American drivers are searched approximately four times as often as white drivers, even though the Chicago Police Department’s own data showed that white drivers were more likely to be in possession of contraband. Members of minority communities also know from personal experience that this is true, another factor that undermines their trust in and respect for law enforcement.
The #MeToo movement has shown us that sexual predators exist in all industries and professions. Law enforcement is no different. An extensive investigation by the Associated Press found that roughly 1,000 officers lost their licenses over a six-year period due to sexual offenses. Some of these are cases where an officer harasses or abuses someone in their custody. Others involve harassment or abuse against a female officer or staff member. This problem is far more widespread than many would like to believe.
Police brutality and other misconduct cases are highly complex and difficult to win. The burden of proof is higher when suing a police officer than with an ordinary civil case. In such cases, it is often presumed that the officer acted appropriately given the circumstances, and the plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. In order to prevail with this type of action, you must show that the actions of the police officer exceeded reasonable bounds, violated the constitutional rights of the victim, and resulted in injury and compensable damages.
This is accomplished by presenting extensive evidence, including multiple photographs (and hopefully video footage) of the incident, eyewitness accounts from others who saw what happened, medical records documenting the extent of the physical injuries, etc. It is also imperative to present a persuasive argument to the court to convince them (based on the facts and evidence) that the officer’s actions violated the law.
When law enforcement officers engage in police misconduct, it is a major betrayal of the trust we as a society place in them. Barrett & Farahany is committed to aggressively pursuing justice for those who have been victims of police brutality and misconduct.
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