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Commonly asked questions about excessive force

If you have lived in the Brooklyn area for any amount of time, it is not secret that there is a lack of trust between the community and police officers. In October 2015, the New York City Department of Investigation released a report showing that excessive force is a continuous problem due to lack of training and discipline. It is important to know exactly what excessive force is and when it is appropriate to sue the police.

What counts as excessive force?

Generally speaking, the law allows police officers to use reasonably necessary force to arrest someone. Any action taken by law enforcement that is more than reasonably necessary is excessive, but it is a situational issue. For example, a person may have bruises, bumps, cuts or even broken bones from a police officer, but depending on the situation, it may not count as excessive force.

Factors that are considered when determining if excessive force was used include:

  • Whether alternative actions were available.
  • Whether the person was attempting to flee or resisting arrest.
  • Whether warnings were given.
  • Whether the person was an immediate threat to the safety of others, including the officer.
  • The severity of circumstances and underlying crime.

Any force must cease when the police officer has someone in custody and under control. If force is taken against a person in custody, there are consequences for excessive force.

What claims are available?

Excessive force is a violation of the constitution-specifically the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable seizures. If you are a victim of excessive force, you can file a civil rights claim for injunctive relief or monetary compensation according to 42 USC 1983. Civil rights issues are an important component of the legal system, providing a way for individuals to be protected from misconduct by law enforcement.

What counts as evidence?

The evidence supporting an excessive force claim is the most crucial element of a case. Photographs and videos of the incident itself or the injuries sustained are important pieces of evidence. The names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses are important as well. Proper documentation and preservation of evidence will help support a strong claim.

If you feel excessive force was taken against you, it is important to contact a civil rights lawyer as soon as possible. This will ensure no evidence disappears or details are forgotten. While you might think it is next to impossible to overcome immunity and win a case against police, talking to an attorney can help you gain perspective and build a case.

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