While most police officers follow department guidelines and use appropriate force when detaining suspects, unfortunately, others take advantage of their status to inflict undue punishment on victims. This has become a significant problem in Georgia where a sheriff in Macon recently pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the civil rights of two non-resisting arrestees.
According to the plea agreement, the events in question occurred on January 12, 2012 when he and multiple deputies from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) engaged in a foot chase with a non-resident who had been banned from traveling in the area. Eventually, a BCSO deputy was able to restrain and arrest the individual without incident. The sheriff then ordered the deputies to hold the suspect until his arrival. Upon reaching the scene, where the suspect was lying face-down on the ground while handcuffed, the sheriff began to kick and knee him in the ribs while also punching him in the head with a closed fist. As a result, the arrestee experienced severe pain and difficulty breathing.
In his plea, the officer also admitted to repeatedly punching and kicking an arrestee two years later on October 1, 2014 although the individual peacefully surrendered after a high speed chase and did not try to evade arrest. The sheriff used enough force that his hand began to swell and bruise while the victim suffered bleeding in his mouth and significant pain.
While law enforcement officers are permitted to use the degree of force necessary to subdue an individual under arrest, federal law prohibits police officers from using excessive or unnecessary force during arrests because it violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures. The type of action that qualifies as excessive force depends largely on the particular circumstances of the situation and requires courts to apply a balancing test to the facts of each case. In determining whether an objectively reasonable officer would have found it necessary to use a particular level of force, courts assess a variety of factors, including:
- The severity of the crime;
- Whether the arrestee posed an immediate threat to officer safety; and
- Whether the suspect made any attempts to actively evade or resist arrest.
Injuries sustained as a result of a police officer’s use of excessive force can have devastating financial, physical, and emotional consequences for victims. Medical bills can quickly overwhelm a family’s finances, especially if the injuries inflicted on the victim were serious. Fortunately, victims that are able to establish the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers are entitled to full and reasonable compensation, which can include:
- Lost wages;
- Medical expenses;
- Pain and suffering;
- Attorney’s fees; and
- Loss of future income.
A law enforcement officer’s choice to use excessive force during an arrest violates some of a citizen’s most basic constitutional rights. Those who commit this offense can and should be held accountable for the damage they inflict on innocent victims, so if you or a loved one experienced unreasonable treatment at the hands of a police officer, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Please contact a member of our dedicated legal team at Ford Law by calling 404-373-9881 and we will help you schedule an initial consultation.