What is Excessive Force by an Officer?

Police officers using excessive force in Riverside

Police officers risk their lives daily to keep us safe, so the law provides them all the tools they need to do their job effectively and safely, which includes the use of force when necessary. Unfortunately, however, the use of force is often abused—especially against Black people, as has been documented over the decades. One of the most recent examples is the murder of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been tried and convicted for the murder. Anyone who suffered excessive force should allow a civil rights lawyer to assess their legal options. 

What is “Excessive Force?”

Excessive force refers to circumstances where law enforcement officers use force that is more than is permitted under civil rights law against another person in an effort to de-escalate a situation or to protect others or themselves from harm. This is also what is known as police brutality. Under the United States Constitution, everyone in this country has a right to be protected from excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and from cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment.

Excessive Force by an Officer in California

Floyd is just one example, but excessive use of force by the police has been a nationwide problem for decades and only started getting widespread condemnation with the beating of Rodney King on March 3, 1991, by Los Angeles Police Department police officers who were videotaped.

The Rodney King incident – which happened long before the proliferation of smartphones – represented the first real exposure of actual police brutality. It also marked the beginning of demands and implementation of real police reforms to curb the problem of excessive use of force and racism, which is at the core of the problem.

California lawmakers introduced more reforms in 2020, but despite impassioned pleas and demonstrations, many of the bills did not pass. A few did pass, however, with the main one being a limitation of when police can use deadly force. Under the new law, the use of deadly force is now only allowed when “necessary in defense of human life.” This is a marked change from previous law that allowed deadly force by an officer when doing so would be deemed reasonable.

What To Do If You’re a Victim of Excessive Force

If you or a loved one has been the victim of excessive force, you should immediately file a complaint with the police department in question. You should provide details of what happened. The law requires the police department to investigate and hold the accused officers responsible for violating your rights if that is established to be the case. The officer found to have violated your rights should suffer departmental consequences ranging from verbal and written warnings to termination.

You should also tell your civil rights attorney if excessive force was used in conjunction with your arrest and you were charged in court. The lawyer can ask the court to exclude anything that the government wishes to use against you that relates to police misconduct.

In some cases, you can sue the police officer or officers who used excessive force in a civil case to obtain monetary compensation for the injuries you suffered.

Speak with a Riverside, CA Civil Rights Attorney

If you believe excessive force was used against you or a loved one, contact our office of DeLimon Law today for a consultation. We can protect your rights moving forward.

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