Oklahoma City police brutality is a hot button issue at present. Tensions are high on both sides of the issue.
For the most part, police respect the law and perform their duties with professionalism. However, there is no doubt that some police abuse the power and authority of their position. And when that happens, all too often people are hurt or killed.
Whether it occurs as a matter of an arrest gone wrong or against protestors, the use of excessive force is wrong. While many communities used to ignore police brutality, with the killing of George Floyd, a match has been ignited bringing the issue of excessive force, deadly force, police brutality, and other forms of police misconduct to the forefront.
Excessive Force And Civil Rights In Relationship To Oklahoma City Police Brutality
The nature of police work involves a constant tightrope walk between using the force necessary to accomplish the job and abusing a person’s civil rights. While people disagree about where that line is drawn, there is no doubt that a police officer making an arrest, may only use that force necessary to make the arrest. An officer may not use excessive force.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In essence, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. This includes unreasonable or excessive force used during a search or seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment due process clause prohibits excessive force once a person is in custody.
When an officer uses excessive force, an injured individual may bring a lawsuit for wrongful injury or a lawsuit claiming that their civil rights were violated. These lawsuits, when they are successful, allow the victim or victim’s family to collect money damages.
Violations that are against both amendments may be brought in federal court. In fact, most civil actions against police officers for misconduct are filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which allows an individual the right to sue state government employees and others for civil rights violations when that person is acting the color of law regarding their under duties, or within the scope of their duties. Often, this is called a Bivens action, reflective of the Supreme Court decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In order to prevail, the plaintiff must prove that the officer or officers violated a constitutionally protected right.
The question of what is reasonable is a term of art. This question is one of the most litigated aspects of these cases. Legally, the officer’s actions must be objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances before them at the time, without looking at their underlying intent or motivation.
Also, these matters can be brought up through Oklahoma City personal injury cases as either negligence cases or assault and battery cases.
Getting Past The Qualified Immunity Hurdle
Police have what is known as “qualified immunity,” which makes it difficult to sue them individually. Qualified immunity protects an officer in a civil suit unless it is proved that the officer violated a clearly established law or right.
This is a difficult, but not an impossible hurdle. More and more of these cases are being brought which helps establish precedent regarding what actions qualify as a clear violation of an established right or law.
The officer’s actions must have been willful and unreasonable. In addition, the action must be provable. Video footage of the force used is particularly helpful in building these cases.
These cases are most successful when a person can prove a pattern of abusive behavior by the officer in question, and that the injured party had their civil rights violated by the officer’s actions. Finally, the injured party must show that the injury was significant or that a loved one died while in police custody.
If you or a loved one are wondering about the legality or illegality of police actions brought against you, please talk to an Oklahoma City attorney right away.
Consultation: Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney
Our lawyer is well positioned to advise you accordingly, as he has the necessary training and experience. He has the wit and tenacity to match the skill of the Oklahoma City prosecutors.
For a consultation with an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney, call Wirth Law Office – Oklahoma City at 405-888-5400.
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