What is Police Brutality?
Police brutality is the violation of human rights by the police. This includes racial abuse, beatings, torture, killing, or indiscriminate use of riot control by police. Law enforcement abuse has become a human rights issue as unnecessary and excessive force has violated citizens’ rights to liberty, security, and equal protection under the law. Inadequate laws, conflict, racial and other forms of discrimination have been the main causes of police brutality in the United States. Law enforcement should not treat anyone differently because of their race, gender, religion, or political beliefs. However, incidents between civilians and officers have shown otherwise.
Police officers have an obligation to respect and protect the right to life which means lethal force should be used as a last resort. Each year, over 1,000 people are killed in a police altercation in the United States. Lethal force is only necessary for officers to protect themselves or others from the threat of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, in the United States we have seen the death of unarmed citizens by police including but not limited to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
Since the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020, states have passed over 140 police oversight bills. State and city lawmakers across the country have used the outrage of the murder of George Floyd as a push for police reform. Many of the laws passed have given states more influence over policing practices that were previously left to local jurisdictions. These laws include restricting the use of force, additional civilian oversight, transparency around misconduct, and overhauling disciplinary systems.
Hopefully, these new laws will set the tone for police accountability, behavior, and standards for all police departments across the country. So far 4 states have limited officer immunity; 10 states have mandated body cameras, 16 states have restricted neck restraints, and 5 states have restricted no-knock warrants. Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter are not yet satisfied with the new laws put in place because they feel the laws are more reactionary than preventive.
How Do We Stop Misconduct from Happening?
The Las Vegas police department is one of the first police departments to undergo major policy revisions following the mass protest 2020. The new policy focused on de-escalation and a duty to intervene. De-escalation is meant to reduce the likelihood of force when taking people into custody. The duty to intervene was put in place so if another officer observes excessive force taking place, he or she is obligated to step in to prevent unreasonable force. Since these new policies have been put in place the use of force in Las Vegas has dropped by 23%.
Another promising program called Project ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) is used to reduce police misconduct. This program promotes officers to hold each other accountable to save lives and careers. Project ABLE teaches officers to prevent their fellow officers from using excessive force. Officers have to make the decision to break the blue wall of silence and prove their loyalty to each other by helping them stay out of trouble before an incident of excessive force takes place. This requires officers to get comfortable with not only giving but also receiving peer intervention. Project ABLE has been implemented in 40 states with over 250 certified agencies. ABLE has been reported countless times to prevent attacks and retaliations from police against protesters and demonstrators.
In June of 2021 governor Ron DeSantis signed a bipartisan bill meant to prevent the excessive use of force by members of law enforcement. The bill unanimously passed the Florida house and senate. This bill set standards statewide for alternatives to the use of force. Police officers will now receive additional training to avoid the use of excessive force, and identify people who may be mentally ill and how to respond.
On June 21, 2022 Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office implemented a response to resistance order from the Chief of Professional Standards. This order outlines when and what kind of force is authorized under certain situations. Under these guidelines, de-escalation techniques must be applied before any use of force and any force used by an officer that is not covered in training will be subject to review. All law enforcement personnel will now be issued a copy and instructed of the Response to Resistance polices before they are places in a position where force may be use or authorized to carry a weapon. This is a step forward for Floridians to feel more protected because law enforcement is not being treated as if they are above the law.
The Criminal division of Phillip’s, Hunt, Walker and Hanna is more than willing to defend you if you have been charged as a result of an altercation with the police. If you believe you have been a victim of police brutality the Civil division of Phillip’s and Hunt is available to look into your case and assist as well. Phillip’s and Hunt is located at 212 North Laura Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32202. You can submit a free case evaluation online at Floridajustice.com or over the phone at (904) 444-4444.
Abrams, Z. (2020, October 1). What works to reduce police brutality.
Elder, S., Keller, M. H., & Migliozzi, B. (2021, April 18). As new police reform laws sweep across
the U.S., some ask: Are they enough? The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and
Gov. DeSantis signs bill to prevent excessive use of force by police officers. (2021, June 30).
Florida Politics – Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government.https://floridapolitics.com/archives/438531-gov-desantis-receives-bill-to-prevent-excessive-use-of-force-by-police-officers/
What is police brutality? (n.d.). Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/police-brutality/
This blog post published by Phillips, Hunt, Walker & Hanna is for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. For legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney.