By: Gregg Zeff
On: May 29, 2021
In the wake of the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd, news and media have once again been focusing on police brutality and police shootings. Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming backlash from the general public over the past year, cities are doing little to prevent instances of police violence and excessive force. Such instances are never acceptable, and we should not accept circumstances as they are. At the Zeff Law Firm, we proudly represent individuals who have been the victims of excessive force to bring them the justice they deserve.
How Many People Have Been Shot and Killed by Police in the Last Year?
According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, over 350 individuals have been killed by police so far in 2021. In fact, there have only been six days since the start of the new year where an individual has not been killed by police. The same database reports that in 2020, 1,127 people were killed by police officers. That is an average of over three people a day. It is important to note that these statistics do not include instances where individuals were injured or were subject to excessive force at the hands of police. While the total number of police shooting victims is staggering, it is important to note that African Americans are the victims of fatal police shootings more than three times more often than white people. As a result, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania labeled police brutality a “public health emergency” in the US.
What is Considered Reasonable Force?
Reasonable force is the amount of force necessary to protect yourself or your property. In the context of police officers, it generally means the amount of force necessary to detain someone or take them into custody. An officer is not permitted to use excessive force – or more force than is reasonably necessary – to take someone into custody. The amount of force that is reasonable depends on a number of circumstances, such as the severity of the crime committed, whether the suspect was armed, and the level of threat posed to the officers.
What Constitutes Excessive Use of Force?
Excessive force occurs when an officer uses more force than is reasonable or necessary to detain an individual. An obvious example is an officer who punches a suspect after the suspect has already been handcuffed and is not resisting the officer. Another example may be an officer who uses force while detaining an individual in a non-violent crime (such as tax fraud). Unnecessarily causing injuries to a suspect, or failing to use verbal commands before applying force can also constitute excessive force.
What are The Eight Preconditions of Deadly Force?
Deadly force should only be used as a last resort or in specific situations. The law only permits the use of deadly force if one or more of the following preconditions are present:
- The officer is acting in self-defense
- The officer is defending others
- When deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent theft or sabotage of assets vital to national security
- When deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent theft or sabotage of dangerous property
- When deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent the destruction or sabotage of national critical infrastructure
- In order to prevent the commission of a serious crime against others
- When reasonable force is necessary to arrest or apprehend an individual where there is probably cause that the person has committed or will commit a serious crime involving death or serious bodily harm
- In order to prevent the escape of a prisoner, so long as there is probably cause that the person has committed or will commit a crime involving death or serious bodily harm
What Happens If Police Use Excessive Force?
If an officer has used excessive force, that officer may be liable to the victim of that excessive force. This is even true when the victim of excessive force is found guilty of the underlying crime that initiated the confrontation between the officer and the suspect. If you believe that you have been the victim of excessive force or police brutality, you should discuss your case with the experienced attorneys at Zeff Law Firm to determine your options.
How do you Prove Excessive Force?
In police brutality cases involving excessive force, it is up to the plaintiff – or the individual who was the subject of the excessive force – to demonstrate that excessive force was used during the interaction with the police officer. There are many factors that go into demonstrating excessive force. One key component is that you’ll need to demonstrate that you sustained an injury during the altercation (or that a death occurred). Additionally, you’ll have to demonstrate that no aggravating factors were present that justified the officer’s use of force. In other words, there cannot be any evidence of resisting the officer, attempts to flee, the presence of a weapon or the commission of a violent crime.
What Needs to Happen to Curb Deadly Use of Force by Police?
In order to address the use of deadly and excessive force, we need to begin holding our police officers accountable for gross violations of the laws against police brutality when they occur. You can do that by bringing excessive force lawsuits when you have been the victim of that treatment and ensuring that your rights continue to be protected. The attorneys at Zeff Law Firm can help you start your case today.