Spotlight Falls on Big City Police Departments Over Excessive and Deadly Force

police brutalityToday, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) is not the only police department under scrutiny concerning the use of deadly and excessive force.

Cleveland’s police department is in the public eye as events involving the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, rise to the surface. According to USA Today, two officers of Cuyahoga County responded to a call in the area in relation to a man aiming a gun at a crowd of civilians. Upon arrival, Officer Loehmann leapt out of his patrol car and in a matter of seconds proceeded to fire shots at Mr. Rice. In examination of the research compiled by CNN, it was found that there were no witness reports filed that could substantiate the claims made in Officer Loehmann’s report, stating that the officer only discharged his weapon after his orders were ignored and Tamir reached for a gun. Whether or not the death of Mr. Rice can be founded as a justifiable action or improper use of deadly force, the actions of Officer Loehmann seem to exhibit a persistent “shoot first, ask questions later” policy that is purveying throughout various local and state departments.

Another police department currently being criticized for the use of excessive force is in McKinney, Texas, near Dallas. According to CNN, local police responded to a possible trespassing at a pool party. Officer Eric Casebolt was reluctant to answer the call after dealing with two suicide calls earlier that day, but decided it was his duty after hearing about “possible violent assaults.” In a video, available on NYTimes.com, Officer Casebolt is seen taking a 15-year-old girl, Dajerria Becton, to the ground by grabbing her arm and twisting it behind her back. In addition, Officer Casebolt can be seen as kneeling on Ms. Becton’s back while holding her arms behind her. These events illustrated in the video appear to depict excessive force applied to an adolescent teen, as well as the lack of proper discretion executed by an already emotionally distressed police officer.

These two incidents show seemingly inappropriate actions taken by police officers in the use of deadly and excessive force. The officers involved with the Rice and Becton incidents seem to have miscalculated the situations, and promptly responded with excessive and/or deadly force. Furthermore, it is egregious that state and local Police are not adequately trained in first aid. According to CNN both officers at the scene of Tamir Rice stood in awe of the gunshot wound instead of helping Tamir, failing to provide him with care while he suffered from a critical injury to the abdomen.

It seems as though many Police Officers around the nation are becoming increasingly quick to discharge their weapons, despite the scenario being depicted as a last resort, in formal training.

This readiness to use excessive force was also witnessed in the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina. Mr. Scott was reported as resisting arrest, which warrants the use of intermediate weapons or non-deadly force, however the response was far from appropriate, resulting with Officer Michael Slager firing several shots in Mr. Scott’s back as he attempted to flee, as seen in videos of the incident.

These deafening alarms with respect to the use of deadly and excessive force within local and state police departments does not stop short at merely firearms, as there is now genuine concern with the police’s use of Tasers. According to a recent study, conducted by CBS, many police officers are quick to threaten the use of and eventually use a Taser, whether or not the situation warrants that particular response. The thought process is that while restraining an individual without the use of any aids may prove to be a safe measure of force, it also creates a potential of harm to said officer, thus the choice is between excessive harm to the individual or potential harm to the officer.

Why must there be a choice between the safety of our citizens and that of our Police? The safety of our citizens is paramount, even those in pursuit by the Police, and it is the duty of the arresting police officers to act with just prudence in responding to and neutralizing a threat. And most importantly, it is the City’s Police Department’s responsibility to properly train their officers, whether it be in Dallas, Cleveland, Oakland or New York City.

If you feel you or someone you know may have been a victim of police brutality or excessive force by NYPD, please get in touch with the attorneys at PetersonDelleCave LLP. 212 240 9075