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Did a Police Officer Use Excessive Force?

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Knowing the Difference Between Reasonable and Excessive Force

No one disputes that some use of force may be necessary by the police. A person resisting arrest, a person who is physically harming another person, or a person who is an imminent threat to himself or someone else must be stopped. The police are tasked with that difficult job and may use reasonable force to see that it is done and that the public safety is protected.

The police may not, however, use excessive force. The public has a right not to be victimized by a police officer’s excessive force. This right is found in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and other laws.

When Reasonable Force Becomes Excessive Force

Excessive force is more force than is necessary to control a situation. For example, police officers have different degrees of force that they can use in any situation. In a given situation, a police officer may:

  • Be present in uniform an identified as an officer. In some situations this presence alone may be enough to keep the peace.
  • Issue verbal warnings. Without physical contact, an officer may be able to control a situation by issuing warnings or orders.
  • Use bodily contact. This may include physically restraining or holding someone.
  • Use a non-deadly weapon. This may include Tasers, a baton, tear gas, or other tools.
  • Use a gun. In some cases, the use of a lethal weapon may be necessary.

Police officers have a duty to use the least amount of force that is necessary based on the actual threat or the threat that they reasonably believe exists. This judgment is based on whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable given all of the unique circumstances of the incident.

Additionally, police officers have a duty to stop using force once the situation is under control. For example, if an officer needed to use bodily contact or a weapon to get a suspect into custody, then the bodily contact or use of a weapon must stop once the suspect is in handcuffs and is no longer a physical threat while in police custody.

Since the moment reasonable force becomes excessive force is different in different circumstances, it would be untrue to say that all bodily contact or all use of weapons is excessive force. Instead, the threat presented, the threat that is reasonably perceived, and the effectiveness of less forceful actions must be considered.

What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt by a Police Officer’s Excessive Force

There are initiatives to try to prevent future occurrences of police violence. While you may find these initiatives interesting and you may decide to try to prevent future incidents of excessive force by police officers, you still need to take specific actions to protect your rights and your recovery if you have been hurt by a police officer.

Immediately after the incident, it is important to do two things:

Ask For Medical Attention

If the police officers do not get it for you quickly, then keep asking every officer you come in contact with until your request is granted. A doctor will be able to diagnose and treat your injuries, and the medical record may become an important factor in any legal action you take against the police officer who is responsible for your injury.

Call A Police Brutality Lawyer 

An experienced lawyer can make sure that all relevant evidence, including video footage, is preserved and that all of your rights are protected.

Our police brutality lawyers believe in the rule of law and in the work that ethical police officers perform every day to keep our community safe. We also believe that any officer who abuses their power by using excessive force should be held accountable and that anyone who has been the victim of an officer’s excessive force should be compensated for the injuries that he suffered.

To learn more, please call or text at any time—24/7/365—to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney at the law firm that secured the largest police brutality settlement in Wisconsin history. While each case is unique and past results do not guarantee future outcomes—we promise to bring the same passion and skill to your claim if you have a police brutality case. Contact us online or call our office directly at 800.800.5678 to schedule your free consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham

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