We have constitutional rights that protect us in our contact with law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits police officers from engaging in police brutality. Police brutality is created when law enforcement uses excessive force in detaining or apprehending a suspect.

Use of Excessive Force

Police are permitted to use only the level of force necessary to protect a police officer or to protect the public from threats created by the alleged perpetrator. What is reasonable force that is permitted to an officer depends on an objective assessment of the situation between citizen and the police. In some circumstances deadly force is authorized. In other circumstances, no amount of force is permitted to be used.

An example of a situation where no force is considered reasonable involved a client of mine going through a domestic dispute with her estranged husband. Several Miami Dade County law enforcement officers came to the home of my client. Dissatisfied with the time it took her to open the front door, one of the cops kicked open the door. The force of the kick caused the door to slam into the police misconduct victim as she stood by the door. The citizen is knocked backwards causing her to tear a ligament in her knee. At trial our law firm succeeded in obtaining compensation for her pain and suffering and reimbursement for her medical bills.

Numerous police officers battered and pummelled a developmentally disabled young man who accidentally ran a red light. The police escalated the situation because the officers were inadequately trained to interact with our exceptional population. During the traffic stop, the disabled young man refused to sign the traffic citation. Due to both the lack of training of the officer and the citizen’s intellectual disability, a fight broke out between the cop and the young man in the interior of the police misconduct victim’s car. Eventually back up officers arrived, threw the man onto the roadway and kicked and punched him. This young man’s parents took photographs of the effects of the kicks and the policeman’s punches to the police brutality victim’s face and to his ribs. At trial we persuaded the jury that the citizen justifiably used force in self defense against the first officer. Aided by the powerful expert witness testimony of a retired police chief, who explained the deficient training provided to the city police force, the jury concluded that the fault for transforming a routine traffic stop into an event of police brutality injuring both the citizen and one of the officers. Before trial, the city agreed to train its officers in successfully interacting with our special population.

Deadly force against a criminal suspect may be used only in the limited circumstance of stopping a fleeing felon who may present harm to the public or to protect the safety of an officer.

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