Police Brutality: What Can You Do?

Police Brutality: What Can You Do?


The name “Garner” now strikes a chord with any who hear it. On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner passed away in Staten Island, New York. A police officer put him in a chokehold, despite the fact that the NYPD prohibits the use of chokeholds. Police suspected Garner of selling cigarettes from packs that had no tax stamps. When police officer Danial Panteleo places Garner’s wrists behind his back, Garner pulled his arms away and Panteleo administered the chokehold. He pulled Garner to the ground and restrained him with the help of four other officers. Eleven times, Garner said, “I can’t breathe” while lying face down on the sidewalk. He subsequently lost consciousness and he was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital an hour later.

Despite this being a single, isolated event, the principles of what occurred that day still hold true throughout the nation now. A single phrase has been linked to these incidents; “police brutality”. This has been a topic of debate for years. Individuals have been filing lawsuits through employing an accident lawyer in New York or other cities against police departments for complaints of police brutality or “excessive use of force” in legal terms. But, what happens when an individual believes that he or she has become a victim of this?


What is police brutality?

The first step in developing a case against police brutality is understanding exactly what it is. In layman’s terms, “excessive use of force” simply refers to an officer or officer’s overstepping their boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. If you are unsure of what constitutes excessive force contact an accident lawyer in New York for clarification.

Police officers are often permitted to use some physical force in order to detain or prevent the escape of an offender, maintain a sense of order, etc. However, the use of this force is not unlimited. Most people that police officers use force against will feel violated, but not everyone can make a case for it. The next section will outline the legality of police use of force; how much and when it is legally acceptable.


How much force (and what type) is allowed before it is considered police brutality?

Article 35 of the New York Penal Code describes each one of the situations in which police use of force is acceptable. Sections 15, 20, 25, and 30 go into detail about the justifications for use of force. Section 30, specifically, details a police officers right to use force or deadly force against individuals. When making an arrest, police officers are permitted to use physical force in order to restrain individuals, only if necessary. Unless a person is resisting an arrest, trying to run, etc., police officers are not permitted to use physical force against the person. In a negligence or civil rights violation case law comes into play and provide a better guide as to what is excessive and negligent. This is why it is necessary to contact a personal injury attorney. Every case is different and just because it would seem that an officer disregarded one of the above sections doesn’t mean that they did.

In the case of deadly use of force, police officers may only use this in certain situations. These include felony offenses when the officer believes that the offender is about to use some type of force, cases of kidnapping, arson, 1st degree burglary, and 1st degree escape, and when the offender is armed with a deadly weapon.

Overall, this means that police officers may not use force, or deadly force, against a person unless absolutely necessary to make an arrest or defend someone. If the offender is not showing excessive aggression, not making threats, and not attempting to resist arrest or escape, police officers may not use any force against them. It is generally deemed acceptable for police officers to use the amount of force they perceive may be used against them, however every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Should you feel you have been a victim of excessive force your first step should always be to consult with an accident lawyer in New York.


How can you file complaints against police brutality?

In general, there are three existing ways to complain about police brutality. The first way, which is not a lawsuit, is to bring your case to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). This civilian review panel acts as an impartial agency to investigate complaints against NYPD officers. They deal with four kinds of cases; abuse of authority, discourtesy, use of offensive language and use of excessive or unnecessary force. In 2014 there were 4,779 complaints received by the CCRB, 51% of which were regarding improper use of force. For further information on this course of action, refer to the CCRB website.

Police departments are also able to take complaints from the public about officers at any time. When this happens another group of officers, an entire sub-department or an investigative body made up of civilians, will investigate the situation deal with it in their own way.

The other way to complain is through a lawsuit, using the services of an accident lawyer in New York City. Individuals may file criminal civil lawsuits against police in the case of police brutality. The ultimate goal of criminal lawsuits is criminal punishment for the individual officer, and possibly the department. Civil lawsuits can result in compensation for the individual who has been the victim of police brutality. An accident lawyer in New York can help with these matters.


What are the contributing factors and likely outcomes of your police brutality case?

Filing a lawsuit against a police officer is a difficult but not impossible feat, especially when you employ an experienced accident lawyer in New York. Factors that will make the case more difficult include the culture (police-favoring or not) and the race or nationality of those involved. The unfortunate fact is that racial bias still occurs, but is not the deciding factor, since it is only one small part of the system.

Again, the system favors police officers in these cases and will likely not result in punishment or compensation unless the case is strong. Two major factors that could make a case stronger include witnesses and the extent of the force.


How should you deal with police brutality?

In any situation involving a police officer, it is important to remain calm and non-threatening. Even if the officer initially uses unjustified force, one should not retaliate unless absolutely necessary. Another action to avoid in these cases is simply piling up the charges. A lack of retaliation and higher focus will make the case stronger. Finally, in developing a case research and documentation is extremely important. People need to be sure that they learn everything there is to learn about their incident. For further information, David Packman with the CATO Institute (research facility), based in Washington D.C. offers a step-by-step guide to developing a case against police brutality. Again, an accident lawyer in New York is capable of developing a case alongside a victim.

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