The men and women in uniform are meant to protect you from the bad guys. But when your civil rights have been infringed upon in the form of police brutality, you may be wondering where your true heroes are. In a world ravaged by headlines of daily instances of police brutality, even in our own state, it is important to know who you can turn to if you find yourself a victim of police brutality. Your Scranton civil rights attorney Craig Kalinoski is here for you.
What is Police Brutality?
Police brutality, also known as police misconduct, is defined by the excessive use of force against another or denying certain civil rights. While we often think of police brutality as gun violence, it is much more than that.
Common forms of police brutality include:
- Excessive Force: Police officers have a responsibility to use reasonable amounts of force to carry out their restraint or arrest against another. Unfortunately, excessive force is often used. This may include excessive hitting, applying force to the person’s body and limbs, or causing unnecessary injury.
- False Arrest or Imprisonment: In order for an officer to make an arrest, he or she must have either a warrant or probable cause that the individual has committed a crime, or is about to. Typically, probable cause is granted when the police officer witnesses the illegal act or has witnessed an attempt to do something illegal.
- Malicious Prosecution: When a criminal proceeding begins without probable cause and ends without a conviction, you may be the victim of malicious prosecution. Often, an office will have no legitimate legal grounds to bring you to trial, but instead has the malicious intent to bring stress, embarrassment, and stain to your life and likely finances.
- Unreasonable Search: In response to nationwide terroristic activity, police powers have been expanded. However, while the intent of the expansion was to protect, sometimes this can become excessive and violate your civil rights. Though a police officer can conduct a search or pat-down if there is reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, the problem emerges when there is not probable cause.
- Rights of Pre-Trial Detainees: If you are awaiting trial and are in police custody, you still have a right to basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and any medical needs you may have. If upon your trial it is learned that you were abused, neglected, or injured in police custody, you may have a case.
Agents of law enforcement, legal process, and representatives of the state are subject to uphold these protections as well. Abuses by these agents that may be considered “actionable conduct,” or disregard for legal responsibility, under Federal Civil rights laws include:
- Racially motivated conduct
- Warrantless arrests
- Malicious prosecution
- Abuse of process
- Retaliatory prosecution
- Excessive force and physical brutality
- Use of deadly force
- Strip searches and body cavity examinations
- Denial of First Amendment rights
- Denial of counsel
- Denial of liberty without due process
- Denial of a fair trial
- Denial of medical attention
- Failure to provide police protection
- Conspiracies to violate civil rights
- Interference with family relationships
- Due process violations
Causes of Police Brutality
While there is no justifiable reason police brutality occurs in this day and age, social scientists and criminologists have found that there are underlying factors that contribute to police brutality.
- Lack of training: Many police officers are given extensive training on how to handle violent interactions. Instead, when tensions grow, some officers may resort to violence.
- Consequences are often minimal: When we see headlines of officers using excessive force in nonviolent crime, we sometimes are not updated on the end result. Was the officer charged with assault? Did he or she lose their position? Oftentimes we do not learn what the result was because the consequences are so minimal, which also explains why this happens so frequently.
- Racial bias: It’s evident by the headlines and daily news that minorities are often the biggest target of police brutality. In our current Black Lives Matter movement, we see dozens of names of Americans wrongfully abused, and in many cases killed, at the hands of a member of law enforcement.
It is obvious that the actions and inactions of law enforcement to change department mentality and to offer better training to handle nonviolent situations only perpetuates the issue of police brutality both in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Knowledge of the Use of Force
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that police brutality and the ability to handle nonviolent interactions must be addressed. Under the use of force spectrum, an officer is expected to read the situation and follow the guidelines of what level of force is or is not needed.
- Physical presence: Officer presence is enough to diffuse the situation
- Verbalization: Using verbal statements to find out what happened or make commands to comply
- Empty-Hand Control: Grabs, holds, punches, or kicks if there is physical resistance
- Less Lethal Methods: Using weapons such as a baton, chemical sprays, tasers, or police dogs when there is more combativeness
- Lethal Force: Using lethal weapons when warranted
Unfortunately, these guidelines are often circumvented with quick thinking and preconceived notions of what is believed to have happened.
Police Brutality in Pennsylvania: Kalinoski Law Offices, P.C.
When what should have been a minor offense, or even no case at all, turns into a physical altercation with a police officer, you deserve justice. If you were the victim of police misconduct or brutality during the course of an arrest or any other circumstance, contact Attorney Craig P. Kalinoski. Wrong place, wrong time does not excuse these behaviors by our law enforcement.