What to Do after an Incident of Police Brutality

racism,  Illinois criminal defense attorneyIn recent months the nation has grappled with the question of police tactics and the use of force by law enforcement officers. Are police becoming too much like a military force that oppresses as opposed to a community presence that encourages cooperation? Are police tactics too aggressive? Is there sufficient oversight to ensure officers do not use too much force in dealing with a situation? While members of local, state, and the national government debate these questions, individuals who observe police tactics on the news may themselves wonder what to do if they believe they are victims of police brutality.

Police Brutality is a Violation of Your Civil Rights

Laws permit police officers to use a reasonable amount of force to protect themselves or others, apprehend a suspect, or defuse a hostile situation. However, when police officers use force that is not reasonable under the circumstances, a federal civil rights violation may have occurred. For instance, an officer who subdues then punches and kicks an elderly woman because she would not move away from an area fast enough has likely violated that woman’s civil rights.

A violation of your civil rights can be prosecuted as a state or federal crime as well as brought in a civil action. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigates claims of civil rights violations, and these cases are prosecuted by special federal attorneys within the Justice Department. (State charges are investigated and prosecuted by states attorneys’ offices and local law enforcement.) A civil action, conversely, is brought by the individual whose rights were violated with the assistance of an attorney experienced in civil rights litigation. Compensation for violations of a person’s civil rights are typically awarded in civil cases.

Help! I Have Been the Victim of Police Brutality!

If you have been the victim of police brutality, take these steps in order to protect your rights and increase your chances of success in a civil rights suit:

  1. Record your observations. As soon as possible, write down your recollection of exactly what happened. Include as many details as possible, especially details about the officer or officers. If there were witnesses who saw this event, try to take down their names, contact information, and a brief description of what they saw;
  2. Speak with an attorney. Bringing a lawsuit against a government employee or entity requires compliance with certain procedural steps. An experienced attorney who is familiar with these steps can help make sure your claim is properly filed and presented to the courts; and
  3. Consider contacting the department or citizen review boards. In some communities, complaints against law enforcement officers are received and investigated by the particular law enforcement agency; in other jurisdictions, a citizen review board comprised of civilians investigates such complaints. Complaints can lead to reform or changes in the way a particular department operates; however, you should consult with your attorney prior to filing such a grievance, especially if the incident led to you being charged with a criminal offense and that offense has not yet been disposed of in court.

Contact Our Attorneys for Help

At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney, we zealously represent our clients whether they have been accused of federal or state crimes. When our clients have been mistreated or abused by overzealous police or prosecutors, we fight for our clients’ rights. We can assist in evaluating whether you or a loved one have a civil rights claim based upon mistreatment by the police. Contact our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys at (312) 357-6765 today for a consultation.

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