Many of us trust our local law enforcement and other government officials to keep us safe and protect our communities. However, in the last few years, there is growing concern about police brutality and excessive use of force, with many cases making national headlines. While there are slightly different laws in each state, detailing what amount of force is permitted and in which situations, there is a general understanding of how civilians and suspects are to be treated.
The term “excessive force” refers to situations where government officials use more than the minimum amount of force necessary to diffuse an incident and/or protect themselves from harm. This can be seen in a multitude of situations, from prisoner handling and military trainings, to traffic stops and other law enforcement duties. The term “police brutality” includes incidents of excessive force, and potential physical and verbal abuse by police officers.
Each of us is protected from excessive force by the constitution. Both in the fourth amendment, regarding reasonable search and seizure, and in the eighth amendment, barring cruel and unusual punishment, our rights to be free from excessive force can be seen. However, there are many legal gray areas and social factors at play in each individual incident, making it hard for people to understand their rights and take the appropriate action to find justice if they have been mistreated.
In the past, the Supreme Court has overturned state laws, in order to prevent deadly force from being applied in situations that didn’t call for it. Now, the law says that deadly force can only be used in an arrest when it is necessary to prevent an escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others.
According to the law, and standard government trainings, officers/guards are only supposed to escalate their behaviors in response to a legitimate threat. This doesn’t always happen, however, and the victims of police brutality are speaking out. Situations that could have been handled with verbal requests or non-lethal forces (e.g. physical hold or handcuffs) are being met with firearms, chemical sprays, and police dogs.
If you, or someone you love has been hurt through the excessive actions of law enforcement or another government official, you have the right to an attorney. Here at the Benner Law Firm, we’re proud to be experienced police brutality lawyers in San Diego, and we’re here to help. Reach out to our office today for your free consultation.