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Police Brutality Victims can Seek Legal Action

Aug 18, 2016

The issue of police brutality and misconduct has gained an increasing amount of attention in the past several years in light of several tragic police-related deaths. These incidents should not be generalized to the entire profession, as there are many police officers who act ethically and abide by the rules. With the question of police misconduct so frequently mentioned, however, it is useful to discuss common claims in police brutality cases.

Police misconduct can come in many forms, such as illegal search and seizure, sexual assault, coercion or blackmail and racial profiling.

Excessive force, or brutality, is likely the first thing most people think of when it comes to police misconduct. Lawsuits alleging excessive force generally claim that a police officer used more force than warranted in a situation. Sometimes, the lawsuits allege that force was used for no legitimate reason at all. Police officers are only supposed to use the amount of force necessary to control a situation. A violation of rights occurs when that force is exceeded.

Amnesty International released a report for the 2015/2016 year in the United States calling state statutes on the use of lethal force "far too permissive", noting that "none limit the use of firearms to a last resort only after non-violent and less harmful means are exhausted, and where the officer or others are faced with an imminent threat of death or serious injury."

Furthermore, the report said, authorities do a poor job of accurately tracking the number of people killed by law enforcement each year. Amnesty International said estimates ranged anywhere from 458 to more than 1,000 people.

Fatal shootings have gained the most attention, and understandably so. The laws dictating when a police officer can use their gun is based on the state, but generally state that guns should only be used when the police officer or another person is in imminent danger, or if a suspect who committed a dangerous crime is fleeing and poses an imminent danger to others following their escape. Lawsuits filed over fatal police shootings frequently allege that a police officer used their firearm in a situation that did not warrant it.

Lethal or unnecessary use of a Taser has also been an issue. The Amnesty Internal Report cited at least 670 Taser-related deaths that have occurred since 2001; 43 Taser-related deaths occurred across 25 states.

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