Suing the Police for misconduct is a complicated process and procedure even when you are innocent of an arrest or some form of Police misconduct. It is always common to find victims of unpleasant contact or friction with the Police who want to sue the Police. The Desire to sue the Police or commence legal action against the individual Police Officer for misconduct or brutality is usually spurred by the unjust, unfair or downright abusive conduct of the Police in handling a situation.
How To Deal With Police Misconduct
Apart from the time and resources a suit against the Police will be gulping from a litigant. You must take into cognizance the legal protections that apply to a Police officer. The technicalities of the said law, limitations and immunity, if carefully considered will give you an edge, build you a solid case and make you stay the course.
Police Misconduct occurs when police officers use unwarranted or needless force against civilians. It may also be referred to as abuse or arbitrary use of power. Once force is applied in a needless situation, then it will be held to amount to a violation.
“Unwarranted Force” may have an omnibus definition in the sense that if it is applied against a defenseless civilian when it is uncalled for or when it is antithetical to extant laws or if it goes beyond the required force to handle a specific situation, then it will amount to misconduct.
In most cases, physical bodily harm will indicate the use of excessive force; in other cases, it may also include psychological factors such as intimidation, false imprisonment, verbal abuse, dishonesty, sexual abuse, nepotism, opinionated repression, and inapt use of coercive weapons.
In every clime, the Police is a very noble profession, established and guided by laws. Police Misconduct or brutality is a severe infringement of extant laws within the police circle. In the United States of America, the use of extreme force is an express infraction of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution especially as it pertains to brutality and safeguard of existing legislation.
Avoiding Police Brutality
When you are stopped or pulled over by a police team, it is important you note that there will be no need to panic if you are not a criminal or in possession of the illegal item(s), remain tranquil and courteous. Your courtesy will grant them better relieve. This is premised on the fact that history has shown that Police officers have been victims of various attacks as they discharge their duties. Respond to their questions politely, give a vague reply, and avoid confrontation, rudeness or affront. You may also decide to remain silent, which is a legal right in law.
A Police officer on duty has vast discretion on who, when and how to stop any person, driver or pedestrian. He can even arrest upon reasonable suspicion of a person which also is a function of discretion. The search of your car may not be automatic when pulled over. Conversely, when your words and actions elevate suspicion, an officer is legally permitted to search. Avoid moving your hands freely inside or around your car. Do not put your hands inside your jacket pocket until your identification is demanded.
A Police Officer enjoys legal protections including “qualified immunity” which shields him/her from lawsuits. This is to enable them to perform their duties efficiently in the midst of the challenges and risks involved in their jobs. Notwithstanding the principle of qualified immunity, where it is established that the Police officer acted willfully ultra vires in an unreasonable manner, the officer will be held liable. However, negligence cannot override immunity.
What to do when You are a Victim of Excessive Force
If you are desirous to take steps against an officer who have used excessive force on you, note that Federal and State laws protect citizens from Police Brutality; you can sue the Police officer individually and join or his/her employers being the local government. The suit may be instituted under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This law prohibits any person acting under the authority of the law from violating the civil rights of another under the Constitution of the United States of America.
You may consider taking the following steps:
- Gather and preserve evidence as much as possible and as fast as you can.
- Find out if there were eyewitnesses who can corroborate your anecdote.
- Keep records of the names and contact information of eyewitnesses (if any) their testimony in court may be the game changer.
- Take photographs of physical bodily injuries sustained.
- Store torn clothing and damaged personal effects and gadgets.
- Seek medical attention to evaluate the degree of your injuries.
- Demand for a copy of the final medical report. The information may be needed during future legal process.
- Hire an attorney, especially one who is experienced or specialized in Police brutality cases as soon as possible. Handling a case of this nature may be complicated, so the experience of an attorney is essential. The Police, in defense for their action, may charge the victim of Police brutality to court for resisting arrest or assault and an attorney must be well grounded and familiar with matters of this nature to sufficiently protect or defend the civil rights of citizens.
- File complaint with the Police Department involved and with the United States Department of Justice as well as the United States Attorney General’s Office. You must file a police misconduct report or complaint with the Police Department as early as you can, to enable the Police to keep track of officers on duty and at the scene of the event.
If you are successful in a suit against the Police in a case of Police Misconduct, damages or monetary compensation will be awarded in your favor as restitution for the violation of your civil rights as well as physical or psychological injury. In a few cases, the court may also require the Police officer(s) and Police department involved to pay punitive damages which will serve as punishment for misconduct.