The term “police brutality” isn’t a specific crime. It is an umbrella description that covers several different kinds of crimes that police do against people. The police receive wide leeway to perform their duties and nearly all of them perform upstanding jobs. However, some do not.
If a police officer violates your civil or constitutional rights, then it can be classified as police brutality. Here are some simple examples:
False arrest and malicious prosecution - If an officer knowingly arrests you or pursues prosecutorial action against you for a crime you didn’t commit, these penalties may apply. Depending on the case, there may be violations of the 4th and 14th amendments.
Failure to intervene - Officers have a duty to report when other officers break the law. Other officers at the scene of the crime may be liable even if they never touched you.
Excessive force - Police are allowed to use force to apprehend criminals, but if it goes beyond what is necessary then they can be accused of brutality. Many videos that show police brutality are instances of this, like the infamous Rodney King video. Excessive force violates the constitutional protection against “cruel and excessive punishments”.
Racial profiling - Racial profiling targets the unsettling powers of the police against racial groups. It’s one thing for police to target all violent criminals regardless of race. It’s another to target only African American or Hispanic individuals because of officer prejudice.
Verbal, Psychological, or Sexual Abuse - Some officers do have a power trip about their jobs and let that power make them take illegal and abusive actions. Abusive actions are also performed against medical minorities such as the disabled and the mentally ill. This type of discrimination is also illegal.
The key question in any police brutality case is whether the actions of the officer crossed the line that other officers would have reasonably taken in a similar situation. Police sometimes use force, even violent force, if it's deemed necessary.
Officers train to escalate the use of force along a continuum depending on the situation. However, the interpretations of how much force is too much at each level varies from state to state. Even at the lowest levels of force, it is possible for police brutality to emerge.
To prove police brutality occurred, plaintiffs have to show that the officers escalated force unnecessarily to apprehend the suspect and that the police had no probable cause to do so. This twin consideration is why it can be difficult to get a charge of police brutality to stick. If an officer thinks someone is pulling a weapon on them, for instance, they may feel justified in escalating to deadly force.
If you feel like the police did discriminate against you unfairly, tried to retaliate against you through the legal system, or you feel they used excessive or abusive force against you during an arrest, you need to speak with our lawyers. We can help you determine whether or not the officers may have broken the law. Contact The Cochran Firm today for a free consultation.