Every few weeks, news headlines remind us how often New York City police officers and others around the country are accused of exceeding their authority or blatantly mistreating different suspects. While being a police officer is a very demanding job, citizens still have the right to hold law enforcement accountable when their constitutional or civil rights are violated.
Although some police misconduct is relatively minor, other incidents constitute gross abuse of power. For example, during September of 2017, two Brooklyn police officers apparently raped an 18-year-old woman. The district attorney’s office has now filed an indictment against the two men that includes at least 50 separate counts.
However, other acts of misconduct are far less obvious – although carried out on a routine basis. As your New York police misconduct lawyer will tell you, the most common types of illegal police activities include racial profiling, false arrest, the use of unreasonable or excessive force and malicious prosecution. And on some occasions, wayward police officers also subject citizens to different forms of illegal search and seizure without first establishing probable cause.
Before examining some of the most common forms of illegal police misconduct that should result in contact with a New York City police brutality lawyer, we’ll quickly review some recent, pertinent statistics. They should shed further light on the “police action claims” that are often filed to protect citizens against the small percentage of police officers who cannot be fully trusted to behave honorably while protecting the public. For more call and schedule a consultation with our injury firm in NYC today.
Recent NYC Claims Filed Based on Illegal Police Actions and Violations of Civil Rights
There were 4,099 new “police action” claims. While that total reveals a nine percent (9%) decline in NYC fiscal year (FY) 2017 compared to FY 2016 when 4,483 similar claims were filed, the dollar amount in payouts rose to $160.6 million in 2017. [The payout total only reached $100.8 million back in (FY) 2016];
Civil rights filings also dropped. During FY 2016, there were 2,318 of these cases filed – compared to only 1,687 pursued in FY 2017. Out of the 128 personal injury tort cases filed against police officers during FY 2017, twenty-two (22) of them involved payouts of over one million dollars each – reaching a total of $93.5 million. That amount equaled 70 percent of the entire amount paid out during that fiscal year for all civil rights cases.
While the annual claim filings continue to periodically fluctuate, it’s quite clear that far too many NYC police officers keep failing to behave honorably while enforcing the law.
Here’s some additional information about the three most common claims filed against NYC police officers and how a New York City police brutality lawyer can help.
False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution & Use of Excessive Force
False arrest. When claimants bring this type of charge, they are basically alleging that the police did not have probable cause to stop or arrest them. However, it’s important to remember that the police do have the right to arrest a person without first obtaining a warrant for either a felony or misdemeanor if the police honestly assert that the named crime was committed in front of them. Furthermore, officers are granted significant discretion when making arrests. If they can show that they reasonably believed that the party arrested had committed a specific crime, they cannot be successfully sued for false arrest. An officer is also usually not liable if the information relied upon when arresting a person later turns out to have been inaccurate or false.
The use of excessive force (police brutality). Officers are only allowed to use the amount of force necessary to safely place an accused person under arrest. If the detained person is not resisting arrest, there’s no excuse to use chokeholds or other extreme means to subdue them (especially after the officers have checked to be sure the suspect is not carrying any kind concealed weapons). Courts evaluate these types of claims very carefully – always making sure that they understand all the facts and circumstances involved when the alleged suspect was taken into custody.
Malicious prosecution. The 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to their freedom or liberty. Therefore, police officers and others cannot deprive anyone of that liberty by charging them with crimes (and obtaining convictions) unless certain conditions are met. For a citizen to win this type of lawsuit, they must prove that the police officer being charged:
Initiated a criminal proceeding against them;
The court case or proceeding was resolved in the victim’s favor (no conviction was obtained);
The officer failed to prove that the action was begun based on probable cause;
The entire proceeding was pursued with actual malice toward the accused.
Officers facing this type of charge can often escape liability when they truthfully assert that they had probable cause to begin the entire proceeding.
Impact of Police Misconduct
The American public deserves to have police officers and other law enforcement personnel that they can trust to carry out their assigned duties in a highly professional and responsible manner. If we fail to hold all officers accountable when they abuse the discretion they’ve been given to properly carry out their duties, our cities become less safe for everyone. All citizens must be protected against government abuses — particularly those that occur when police officers take advantage of the natural fear that many citizens experience when they’re stopped or questioned.
Difficulty of Cases
In general, our courts first presume that the police have conducted themselves appropriately. If this level of respect were not accorded, few police officers would feel enough support to carry out all their duties. That is why simple negligence in performing their jobs will usually not subject officers to liability – especially when they can demonstrate that probable cause existed for their specific actions.
Getting the Help of a New York City Police Brutality Lawyer
Nevertheless, when a citizen’s civil (or constitutional) rights have been violated and adequate evidence has been provided to the court supporting the claims of police misconduct, the injured party will often be awarded their attorney fees for bringing the lawsuit and compensatory damages. In some cases, punitive damages will also be awarded to discourage police officers from ever behaving in the same wrongful manner again. Of course, some lawsuits alleging police misconduct may also result in an officer being formally reprimanded, fired and sentenced to serve time in jail or prison.