Police Shootings, Excessive Force, and You
This past July, 30-year-old David Jones died after a Philadelphia police officer shot him in the back. Mr. Jones was reportedly initially stopped for recklessly riding his dirt bike on the streets. According to several news accounts, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office will investigate the matter further. While there are differing perspectives as to what happened and the authorities will likely take some time determining what occurred, this incident simply adds to the many police shootings that have been materializing lately. While the shootings are sometimes justified, that is not always the case. Sometimes, whether intentionally or not, a law enforcement officer may end up using excessive force in his or her interaction with an individual.
What is Excessive Force?
Law enforcement officers have the responsibility to keep peace and protect the public at large. Within that responsibility, they are sometimes pushed to use force against individuals. It happens. However, the force must be justified.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable seizures by the government. It is well-established law that the unjustified use of deadly force—e.g. shooting—by a government agent, such as a law enforcement officer, against another person constitutes an unreasonable seizure as stated in the Fourth Amendment. This is a violation of civil rights.
When Might Somebody Become Victim to Excessive Force?
Anybody might become a victim. Law enforcement officers may sometimes use too much force when trying to apprehend a suspect. Other times, they may use too much force when dealing with rioters or protesters. While the excessive force might not be intentional, it still happens. When such excessive force is used against you or a loved one, you will want to take the appropriate steps to address what happened.
What Claims Can I Bring?
Most claims brought against police officers—or the appropriate organization responsible for an officer’s actions—are civil claims, as opposed to criminal. Most of those civil claims are “Section 1983” claims, which come directly from Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code. Generally, government officials have what is called “governmental immunity” against most legal claims. However, Section 1983 takes away that governmental immunity and holds the person or organization accountable if they deprive somebody of, among other things, their Constitutional and legal rights. Since excessive force is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, it would fall under a Section 1983 claim.
Law enforcement officers are here to protect us. However, they are also just human. Due to this, they sometimes make mistakes. However, when a mistake involves the untimely death of a loved one or your egregious injuries, you will want the proper relief and compensation. Having a higher chance of success at an excessive force case, however, requires the proper analysis of the evidence, thorough application of the law, and a story that goes far in court. This is where van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin come in. Let our Philadelphia civil rights team help you get not only the relief that you deserve, but also the justice that you need.