How Rampant is Police Brutality in the United States?

Law enforcement officers are often the first point of contact in the criminal justice system. People depend on them to uphold law and order while promoting safety. They are expected to help prevent and solve crimes and respond to social problems. Most officers do their job with honor and integrity, but others betray the trust bestowed upon them by being brutal toward civilians.

Data shows that about 1,000 people in the U.S. population are killed by the police every year. An analysis by Mapping Police Violence revealed that there were only 15 days in 2021 when police did not kill someone in the U.S. Philadelphia criminal defense and injury lawyers explore the issue of police brutality and discuss how to hold law enforcement officers accountable.

A Closer Look into Police Brutality

The killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Michael Brown, among other unnamed victims, have placed law enforcement officers at the center of discussion nationwide. Throughout the country, the police have stolen money and valuables, killed vulnerable people, and shot children.

The trend can be attributed to the doctrine of qualified immunity, which allows local and state officials to avoid being held accountable for the consequences of their professional interactions unless they clearly violate established law. In practice, the doctrine creates loopholes that make these officials violate a person’s rights without being held accountable.

What Should You Know About Police Brutality?

While law enforcement officers may legally use force when it’s called for, there is a legal limit to what is allowed. Even if you are placed under arrest for a crime you committed, you retain your legal and civil rights, and police officers are responsible for protecting those rights.

A police brutality charge may not be taken seriously by some, but most civil rights lawyers have seen the results of police violence, so if you have been a victim of police misconduct or brutality, promptly seek the advice of a Philadelphia civil rights attorney, and you will be taken seriously.

If you and your attorney agree to move forward with legal action, and if you prevail, you may recover monetary compensation for any medical costs related to the incident. In some police brutality cases, victims have also been awarded punitive damages.

What Are the Most Common Types of Police Misconduct?

Incidents of police misconduct are violations of the Federal Civil Rights Act, which establishes your right to sue and to recover damages from those who are responsible for police brutality or for any other civil rights violations.

Police misconduct may include but is not limited to threats, verbal abuse, assault, excessive force, racial discrimination, and sexual assault or abuse. The most frequent claims in civil lawsuits brought against law enforcement officials and police departments are claims for:

  1. False arrests: When police officers do not have probable cause to arrest someone, but they nevertheless make the arrest, it’s a false arrest. There must be sufficient evidence and facts for reasonable persons to agree that the arrest was legitimate.
  2. Malicious prosecutions: Malicious prosecutions are unwarranted actions taken by the government against someone – actions taken with no probable cause and for no good reason.
  3. Excessive use of force: When a law enforcement officer uses force excessively and without cause, that use of force may constitute police brutality and trigger not only a civil lawsuit, but in some cases, criminal charges against the police officer.

The Problem with Qualified Immunity

Proponents of the doctrine argue that police officers need the immunity bestowed upon them to do their jobs. However, this lack of accountability has only created more problems by shielding law enforcers from civil suits for the crimes they commit against humanity. Instead of acting as an effective professional tool, qualified immunity has been the basis for instances such as:

  • Police set a suicidal man on fire in Texas on July 10, 2017, instead of rescuing him
  • Police officer shot a child while firing at a non-threatening family dog in Georgia on July 10, 2014
  • Police officers stole over $150,000 from two people in business in California in 2013
  • Police killed a hospitalized man when he didn’t return to his room in Oklahoma on March 24, 2011
  • Police awakened a sleeping man in his car and killed him when he drove away in Ohio on March 13, 2017

There is now heightened awareness of the wrongful killings of civilians by the police. The conversation is on how to hold law enforcement officers accountable. If you or your loved one have been a victim of police brutality, consult skilled police brutality lawyers in Philadelphia for legal counsel and representation.

Why is It So Rare for Police Officers to Face Legal Consequences?

The data available on police misconduct is far from perfect because there lacks a national reporting system. Besides, state agencies are often reluctant to release investigations into police wrongdoing. Most data come from researchers and journalists, often focusing on shootings, not prosecutions for officers charged with police brutality.

The lack of evidence that police officers are charged for their wrongdoing against civilians is because major cities continue to pay millions of dollars annually to settle lawsuits against police officers. Moreover, police officers who have been repeatedly sued don’t get dismissed from their positions.

Police prosecutions are rare because most cities have pledged to reform their departments. Progressive prosecutors have also won on promises to hold police accountable for their misconduct, but this is hardly the case. That’s why there is interest among police brutality attorneys in Philadelphia to help citizens hold police officers accountable for their actions.

How to Promote Accountability Among Law Enforcers?

Police officers should be accountable public servants who work fairly, collaboratively, and transparently with everyone they serve. More often than not, they violate their role and abuse their power by using excessive force and acting in militarized capacity. Their actions often subject citizens to unfairness that fosters suspicion and resentment.

There should be structures to promote responsible, accountable policing measures to ensure police accountability when officers deviate from the standard. Philadelphia police brutality lawyers discuss the mechanisms for holding law enforcement officers accountable:

Political Accountability

Political measures can dramatically influence the structure and behavior of police departments. Internal review, contingent federal funding, and increased reporting can make officers more accountable. The actions can be more effective if they work in tandem with civil and criminal lawsuits to pressure police departments into adopting best practices.

The Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights can enhance federal oversight of police departments using Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. It can require reforms in the hundreds of police departments that receive federal funds, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

Civil Lawsuits

Police brutality attorneys in Philadelphia can help victims of police misconduct hold officers accountable through civil lawsuits. These include state causes of action and federal cases according to 42 U.S.C 1983. The statute prohibits constitutional violations by state officials.

Victims of police brutality can bring a lawsuit against officers who have deprived them of their rights while acting in an official capacity. Consult skilled Philadelphia criminal defense and injury lawyers to learn more about your legal rights and options when filing a lawsuit against law enforcers.

An Experienced Police Brutality Attorney Fighting for Your Rights

The sobering numbers of police misconduct and brutality cases in the United States suggest that the police department requires fundamental transformation. The frequency of police killings and brutality statistics is a public health crisis that requires urgent intervention. Meanwhile, if you have been a victim of police brutality, skilled police brutality attorneys in Philadelphia can fight for your rights.

The lawyers at Liberty Law Team can investigate police misconduct cases and help you file a lawsuit. We can analyze the issue, determine who is at fault, and build a solid claim to maximize your compensation. Call us at (215) 826-3314 to schedule a case assessment.