Get Help From a Skilled Police Misconduct Attorney
Police officers are responsible for upholding the law and protecting the people in the communities they serve, and it’s devastating when a police officer breaches this public trust and abuses that power. Civil rights activists have brought to light systematic injustices and abuses of power on the part of law enforcement. When police officers fail to act with integrity, they must be brought to justice. The police lawsuit lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP are here for police brutality victims. With the help of a police misconduct attorney from our firm, you can stand up for your legal rights.
Being victimized by an authority figure can be traumatizing, causing emotional, financial, and physical damage and injury. Pursuing litigation over police brutality allows victims and their families to seek justice and protects other civilians who may fall prey to police misconduct.
If you or someone you know has experienced police misconduct, call Parker Waichman today for a free case review with a police brutality attorney.
What Are the Different Types of Police Misconduct?
Misconduct that leads to a police lawsuit can take many different forms. The most prevalent example is the use of excessive force, or brutality. Police officers are allowed to use a reasonable amount of force as necessary to control a situation. If an officer exceeds what is deemed reasonable, they may be guilty of violating an individual’s civil rights. Excessive use of force may also cause serious injuries, including disability and death.
Examples of police misconduct may include:
- Coercion or blackmail
- Excessive force
- False arrest or wrongful imprisonment
- Fatal shootings
- Illegal search and seizure
- Racial profiling
- Sexual assault
Recent police brutality cases have been picked up by the media all over the country, with allegations including excessive force and violations of the victims’ Fourth Amendment rights. Instances of police intimidation and police negligence have been reported along with cases of illegal entry into people’s homes, illegal searches, and uses of excessive force against civilians.
Weapons and Excessive Force
Some victims file a lawsuit against a police department because of harm caused by the use of a weapon, such as a Taser or a firearm. Rules governing the legal use of police firearms are dictated by each state. Typically, policies indicate that guns should only be used when a police officer or another person is in imminent danger or when someone suspected of a dangerous crime is fleeing and could pose an imminent danger to others if they escape. But there have been a number of cases in which a police officer used firearms in unwarranted situations, sometimes killing innocent civilians.
Excessive force may also consist of tasing. Many believe that Tasers are non-lethal, but that’s not necessarily the case. More than a thousand Americans have died after being shocked with Tasers, and Amnesty International has spoken out against their overuse. If you have been injured or a loved one has died due to police tasing, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against the police for excessive force.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Police misconduct may involve a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from illegal searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment provides that civilians cannot be searched without probable cause. If you believe your rights were violated, a police misconduct attorney can help you seek justice.
Injuries and Deaths Caused by S.W.A.T. Team Search Warrants
In March 2017, The New York Times published an investigative report calling attention to the deaths and injuries that result when S.W.A.T. (“Special Weapons and Tactics”) team officers are used to execute search warrants. Most of the time, these tactical raids are conducted in search of drugs. “No-knock” warrants, as they are called, give police officers the right to force entry into a home to execute a search warrant without notice. The Times piece paints a terrifying picture of the raids: A team of fully armored police officers carrying an assortment of military-type weapons enter a home unannounced, ready for battle.
The investigation found that S.W.A.T. drug raids conducted from 2010 through 2016 resulted in the deaths of at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers. Since for the most part the government does not require reporting singling out S.W.A.T.-related fatalities, the true number of deaths is likely to be much higher. These aggressive drug raids have also resulted in numerous injuries as well as legal settlements that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
The Times investigation was sparked by a May 2014 case in which a S.W.A.T. team officer in Georgia mistakenly threw a flash-bang grenade into a toddler’s playpen, severely injuring him. The child needed more than a dozen surgeries, and he and his siblings were traumatized by the event. The family received $3.6 million in police settlement payouts, much of which went toward the child’s medical bills.
According to the Times, these so-called “dynamic entries” prompted an average of 30 civil rights lawsuits each year from 2010 to 2015, and “many of the complaints depict terrifying scenes in which children, elderly residents, and people with disabilities are manhandled at gunpoint, unclothed adults are rousted from bed, and houses are ransacked without recompense or apology.”
In one of the most high-profile recent cases, Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed in March of 2020 in a no-knock raid while she was asleep in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment. In response, Louisville banned the use of no-knock warrants, and Black Lives Matter protests erupted all over the United States demanding justice. But the practice of using no-knock warrants continues across the country.
Raid-related injuries and deaths have led to legal settlements. The Times found that at least seven civil lawsuits had been settled for more than $1 million from 2012 to 2017. In one case, a $3.75 million settlement was awarded to the family of a 68-year-old Massachusetts grandfather who was shot while lying on his stomach, unarmed and compliant. In another, a 26-year-old former Marine was shot more than 20 times during a drug raid. The police failed to find any drugs. His family received a $3.4 million settlement. In each of these cases, the officers involved were not charged.
What to Do When Police Violate Your Rights
Cases involving police brutality may be complicated because many victims are taken directly to jail after being abused, which may lead to further trauma. If you are free to act after being victimized, you should take the following steps to start seeking justice:
- Document the entire incident in detail. This includes taking photos of your injuries and any damage, including writing down any badge numbers or names of officers that you can see.
- Obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses to the incident.
- Seek medical attention immediately. Health professionals will not only treat your injuries, but they will also document your injuries in your medical records.
- Contact a capable police brutality attorney.
If you find yourself in the hands of law enforcement after the misconduct, do your best to remain as calm as possible in order to protect yourself. Comply with requests made of you by law enforcement. Do not show any signs of noncompliance, as this could be used against you. Contact one of our police brutality attorneys as soon as you are able.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Police Allowed to Use Excessive Force?
Police officers are allowed to use as much force as they reasonably think is required to protect the public and their own well-being. The amount of force that’s deemed “excessive” is a matter of public debate.
What Can You Do if a Police Officer Violates Your Rights?
If you are the victim of a police officer’s misconduct, it’s important to document everything you remember about the situation, especially the information of the officers involved. Their badge numbers, patrol car numbers, agency, and details about their appearance, as well as information from witnesses, can go a long way. Once you have these details, the next step is filing a written complaint with either your local civilian complaint board or the officer’s police agency.
Can You File a Lawsuit Against the Police?
You can sue a police officer, but a successful civil claim for police misconduct must include proof that a law enforcement officer did not protect citizens from abuse, that they breached a duty of care, and that this breach of duty caused your damages. If you decide to report an officer, you should document your experience thoroughly. The more details you’re able to recall and draw on, the stronger your case will be.
Can Police Officers Be Sued Personally?
Police officers involved in misconduct on the job can be sued in both their personal and official capacities, according to federal law.
What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need for Police Brutality?
A civil lawyer can walk you through how to file a complaint against a police department as well as how to sue for police brutality. If you think you may have a lawsuit against the police, a police misconduct attorney can help you determine whether you have grounds to sue and handle your legal claim.
What Qualifies as Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct cases usually occur when an officer violates an individual’s constitutional rights or when an officer commits an illegal act, such as drug abuse or sexual assault.
How Hard Is it to Sue a Police Department?
It’s difficult to sue police departments, but it’s not impossible to succeed as long as you go through the appropriate administrative channels, have plenty of documentation to prove your case, and work with a good lawyer to sue the police department for wrongdoing.
Can You Sue a Police Officer in Civil Court?
A cop may be immune from being criminally charged in state court, but they are still able to be sued in civil court both on the state level and federal level, as long as you and your police negligence attorney can prove that they failed to adequately perform their duties or they used excessive force or harassed civilians.
Can You Sue a City for Police Brutality?
Suing the government is a much more difficult endeavor than suing a private entity or a specific person, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. When you work with a police abuse attorney, they can help walk you through the process and ensure that you have all of the necessary documentation to provide proof of police brutality and your resulting injury.
Is Police Brutality a Crime?
When law enforcement officers use unwarranted and excessive force against a person, it is considered a civil rights violation and violates police misconduct laws set in place to deter brutality and negligence by law enforcement officers.
Why Is Police Brutality a Civil Rights Issue?
Civil rights laws primarily exist to protect people from abuses at the hands of the government or government officials. Police brutality was determined to be a civil rights issue under the Civil Rights Act of 1981, which was intended to curb oppressive conduct by government and vigilante groups.
How Is Police Brutality Defined?
Police brutality is defined as an excessive or unwarranted amount of force used against civilians by a police officer. Broader definitions of police brutality encompass harassment, false arrest, intimidation, verbal abuse, and other forms of mistreatment.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit Against the Police?
Each state has its own statute of limitations for this type of case, so the time limit to file a lawsuit for police wrongdoing will depend on your state and the type of misconduct that occurred. If you think you may have a lawsuit against the police, it’s important to contact a police misconduct attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case in order to protect your right to take legal action.
How Long Does it Take to Sue the Police?
Police misconduct law litigation takes time, and depending on the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case, a civil lawsuit against the police could be resolved as little as a year or as long as four or five years.
What Right Does Police Brutality Violate?
Excessive force by the police can violate the right to be free of discrimination, the right to liberty and security, and the right to equal protection under the law.
Our Experience With Police Misconduct and Brutality Lawsuits
The police misconduct lawyers at Parker Waichman have secured monetary awards on behalf of clients who were:
- Assaulted by corrections officers at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility
- Assaulted by an EMS worker
- Thrown down a flight of stairs by a police officer
- Shot in the back by a police officer
- Shot at by a police officer while sitting on the steps outside his home with his child
We stood up for these victims’ rights, and our police brutality lawyers can help you, too.
Get Legal Help With Your Police Misconduct Case
If you have been a victim of abuse at the hands of police, you can get police brutality help from the personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our online contact form today to get a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced police abuse lawyer. When you talk to a top police misconduct attorney at our law firm, we’ll help you learn about your legal rights and options for seeking justice after dealing with cops’ unethical misconduct.
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