When making an arrest or attempting to get a situation under control, an officer is only allowed a certain amount of force; exceeding that limit is considered excessive force. Excessive force is a situation where a government official who is legally entitled to use force exceeds the minimum amount necessary to diffuse an incident or protect themselves or others from harm. When it comes to law enforcement, it is more widely known as police brutality.
When a judge is determining whether excessive force has been used, they will consider multiple factors, including the severity of the underlying crime or circumstances, whether there was an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, whether the individual was actively resisting arrest or attempting to escape arrest, whether other methods could have been used or whether warnings were given or could have been given. Some courts acknowledge the officer’s qualified immunity, which protects a government official from lawsuits when the plaintiff believes his/ her rights were violated.
According to the Supreme Court, authorized government officials have “the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat.” However, it is noted that the level of force used must be proportionate to the presented level of threat. Hypothetically officers should slowly escalate through the following levels as needed:
They should use physical presence, merely using their presence to deescalate the situation. Then move on to verbalization, use verbal statements, from non-threatening requests to direct orders.
They should move to empty-hand control or using physical bodily force through grabs, holds, punches, or kicks. If the situation still has not been controlled, move to less-lethal methods by using non-deadly weapons like batons, pepper sprays, or tasers.
As a last resort, having exhausted all other options, move to lethal force, using deadly weapons such as firearms.
When arguing against police brutality or excessive force, the fourth and eighth amendment are most often cited. Respectively they protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizure of property and cruel and unusual punishment.
If you have been the victim of excessive force by an authorized government official, reach out to a civil rights lawyer at Darfoor Law Firm for a free consultation toll free at 754-812-8444 or 754-812-8444.