Police officers often have to make life-and-death decisions in a micro-instant. And while most will end up making the right call, a few, unfortunately, will abuse the power that's been given to them. In fact, the nightly news seems to have become a never-ending parade of police brutality stories. Proving police abuse, however, can be a challenge.
If you've recently suffered injuries while being arrested, you will need to prove that the police officer -- or officers -- used force beyond what was necessary for the situation at hand. For instance, if you were acting violently and were a true threat to those around you or to the officers on the scene, they would have the right to use the force necessary to protect themselves and others. But once you no longer posed a threat, any other force used against you could be deemed abuse. For example, if you were charging at the police officers with a knife and they used a Taser on you, most courts would consider that justifiable or "reasonable and necessary" force.
But if the police officers then continued to Taser you even as you were lying on the ground and not moving, that could be considered excessive force in some cases. The key word here, though, is "could." Why? Because if the police officers can prove that, in the heat of the moment, they still felt threatened by you, a court might find their actions justifiable. In fact, according to The Guardian, 13 police departments do not have any rules against using a Taser on a suspect that is already in handcuffs and is not posing an "exceptional" threat to others.
In addition, a police officer's actions are typically not judged by any facts that are discovered during an investigation after the incident. So if you, for example, were carrying a water pistol, and you were shot by a police officer, that force may be considered justifiable. Why? Because in the heat of the moment, the officer may have mistaken your weapon for the real thing. The fact that you were carrying a water pistol and not a real gun was not something the police officer knew at the time that you were shot.
Hire a Lawyer
This does not, however, mean that you should give up on pursuing legal action if you believe that you were the victim of police abuse. While these cases can be difficult to prove, an experienced lawyer may be able to obtain justice on your behalf by putting together an excellent case. In order to do this, a lawyer may decide to:
- Obtain a subpoena for any law enforcement video or audio surveillance recordings, such as police dash cam footage, of your arrest.
- Request or subpoena video footage from security cameras from businesses in the area of your encounter with the police officers.
- Interview witnesses and seek out cell phone camera video.
What You Should Do After a Suspected Police Brutality Incident
If you believe that you have been a victim of a police abuse incident, you -- or someone you know -- should get the names and contact information of all witnesses before they can leave the scene. In addition, it is important that you document everything that you can recall about the incident as soon as possible. With each passing day, your memory of the incident will fade just a little, which could cause you trouble if your case should go to trial. Attorneys love to seize on inconsistencies in testimony, so it's important to keep a record of everything that occurred. In addition, you should also:
- Seek medical attention for your injuries immediately.
- Take pictures of all of your injuries.
- Keep a record of all of your medical visits.
Police abuse should not be taken lightly. And if you have been a victim, it is important that you seek out justice. For more information, go to sites for lawyers who specialize in these types of cases.