Those who work in law enforcement have a dangerous job. They never know if a person that they need to talk to could have a weapon or could be mentally unstable. Unfortunately, the potential risks associated with their jobs often lead officers to become unnecessarily violent or physically forceful during arrests.
Police need to balance the threat they perceive against themselves with the potential injuries aggressive actions could cause for the suspect involved, as well as with the potential risk to the local community. Understanding what constitutes reasonable force can help you determine whether or not police officers engaged in unnecessary violence or brutality at the time of your arrest.
The level of force should reflect the level of threat
There is no straightforward rule about what kinds of force or violence are permissible in an interaction between law enforcement officers and a suspect. Instead, these situations are open to interpretation on the part of the officers and any legal professionals or administrators reviewing the situation after the fact. However, there are certain basic guidelines which should inform how police officers deal with the public, including those they suspect of illegal activity.
Officers should generally engage the public and any suspects with the least amount of force possible to reasonably ensure the safety of the officers and any civilians present. They may also need to restrain someone to prevent them from harming themselves. The level of risk a person represents should directly impact the degree of force utilized.
That means that physically striking or firing even a non-lethal weapon at an individual suspected of a minor infraction, such as retail fraud or shoplifting, might represent unnecessary force, particularly if officers had no reason to suspect that person had weapons on their body.
What does excessive force look like?
Examples of excessive force could include continuing to strike someone after other officers restrain them or after the individual collapses to the ground, as well as using physical force or violence against someone who neither posed a threat or attempted to resist officers at the time of the arrest.
Determining if police behaved properly is complex. Reviewing the arrest reports, statements made by witnesses, any body camera footage or nearby security footage, and your statement about the impact of the violence on your health and well-being can all help. You may have grounds for a claim against the officers who became aggressive with you.