Articles Posted in Police Misconduct

California’s police misconduct lawsuit payoffs are high- profile and expensive. For example, Iraq War vet, Scott Olsen, was protesting in Oakland California in 2011 when a beanbag round shot by police struck him in the head. He received irreparable brain damage. Oakland settled the ensuing police civil lawsuit for $4.5 million.

In 2013, Los Angeles settled for $4.2 million when officers shot two women delivering newspapers by mistake. They were involved in an early morning manhunt for a violent former cop, Christopher Dorner. They mistook the women’s car for the suspects and opened fire. While the department first described the incident as a tragic mistake, it was later found the eight officers involved violated policy during the incident. Discipline for the officers involved in the case was handled within the department.

The movie Fruitvale Station was inspired by the shooting death of Oscar Grant III. He was killed by gunshot from police while handcuffing him in a subway in the Bay area. The officer responsible claimed he pulled his weapon on mistake. He meant to pull his taser. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. His young daughter and mother received settlements over one million dollars each.

As citizens, we depend on police and law enforcement to protect our rights and personal safety. We expect them to treat us fairly and with respect as human beings even when we are accused or suspected of wrongdoing. Officers of the law are held to a high standard of behavior as they are entrusted with a wide birth of authority in the commission of their duties to the public. When police break their agreement to act in a responsible manner and use excessive force in a situation, they damage the public connection, endanger the lives and well-being of their victim and themselves, and cost the county money in administrative and legal proceedings.

Objectively Reasonable Physical Force

Police and law enforcement officers of all type are trained to use a reasonable amount of physical force to subdue and apprehend a subject. Graham V. Connor (490 U.S. 386), a 1989 Supreme Court case, allotted one of the milestone decisions pertaining to law enforcement use of force. It created a national standard still used today. SCOTUS clearly stated the use of force by law enforcement on private citizens will be evaluated as a seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This includes use of force that is deadly or nondeadly. Every arrest, course of arrest, investigatory stop and any seizure of a private citizen are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s objective reasonableness standard as opposed to a substantive due process standard. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects American citizens against unreasonable search and seizure by the U.S. government and its agents. One of the important precedent set forth by Graham V. Connor is the understanding that police make the decision to use force and how much to use in a split-second during a rapidly evolving and potentially life-threatening situation.

Anger, frustration and even rage and fury at the police by the average American citizen is at an all-time high. The use of excessive force and discriminatory practices against private citizens is no longer being tolerated. Though few officers, compared to the amount of police officers nationwide, behave in this manner it’s effects are widespread and damaging to the entire country. The most recent effect is the influx of private citizens pursuing legal proceedings against law enforcement for unlawful searches, seizures, arrests, detainments and abuse by police. While it is within a citizen’s rights to sue the police department, it must be a careful considered decision.

Why Sue the Police Department

People in this country are just as tired of frivolous lawsuits as they are police misconduct. The days of suing for any reason are over. A plaintiff must have a valid reason to sue police. A clear and obvious denial or infraction of a citizen’s civil rights must be present. It is also important to sue police if the dangers the plaintiff experienced by the police could possibly happen to another citizen. A civil duty is present to step up and stop a policeman who is violating procedure to the point of endangering the public he is worn to protect. Egregious errors must be prosecuted but frivolous lawsuits are not tolerated.

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