Excessive Police Force: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Force: (noun) the exertion of power to compel or restrain the behavior of others.

Imagine you’re enjoying a night out with friends and someone in your group has had too much to drink. You’re walking home from a bar and see a police officer on foot. Your overly intoxicated friend is in a confused state and begins to run from the officer. The officer suspects that he has done something illegal, so he gives chase. After a few blocks, and several attempts to get your friend to stop running, the officer tackles him to the ground and your friend is injured with scratches and cuts and a fractured wrist.

Your friend was not able to clearly access the situation and the officer suspected foul play and believed that a specific level of force was necessary to control the situation. What are your friend’s rights in this situation? How do you determine if the level of force used was excessive?

Police are given quite a bit of latitude in performing their duties and sometimes when individual discretion must be applied, misjudgments will occur—force may be used where none was warranted, for example.

According to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1989, the test of police brutality is whether an officer can reasonably argue that the level of force was necessary. The definition of “reasonable force” can vary widely by state and the officer’s intention matters too – if the officer consciously used more force than is necessary to control a certain situation, then they crossed the line.

How do you know when a police officer has used excessive force?

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. Every situation must be reviewed individually to determine if the level of force used was appropriate. The most important thing to know in this type of situation is that you are not alone. If you believe that you or someone you know has been the victim of police brutality, the Marrone Law legal team is here to help. We have experience in these matters and we’re always available to review your case and get the compensation you deserve.

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