Have you been a victim of police misconduct? If so, you may find it much easier than it once was to find an attorney willing to represent you in a personal injury suit against the police. Here's what you should know.
More people are coming forward than ever to report police misconduct.
In recent years, thanks to the advent of smartphones that can easily capture video, police misconduct has been documented in more cases than ever. That's created a seismic shift in the willingness of people to come forward and press their cases against the police.
Police misconduct lawsuits were often just the word of the officer involved -- who represented a uniformed, respected member of the very group of people charged with protecting the public -- against the word of a mostly anonymous member of public who was probably charged with a crime anyhow. The benefit of the doubt was often given to the officer, which has historically made attorneys reluctant to take the cases on as personal injury cases.
It was a matter of simple economics for the attorneys involved: personal injury cases are usually handled on a contingency fee basis, so an attorney could end up investing a great deal of time and energy into a case that was likely to be lost due to an inherent bias in favor of the police.
However, recent events like the fatal police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in Cleveland, Ohio, have created an atmosphere that has eroded public trust in the police. Things like the video of a police officer violently throwing tennis star James Blake to the ground while he's just standing in front of his hotel in New York continue to darken the public mood.
Police misconduct involves more than just shootings.
There's very little available in the way of accurate statistics involving police misconduct because there is no nationwide method of tracking incidents. However, different organizations and media sources have begun independent investigations into police misconduct and have begun to gather evidence of widespread problems.
It's important to note that police misconduct is a blanket term that involves many different things:
excessive force, with or without a gun, which is likely the most common misconduct
sexual assault, including rape
allowing police dogs to attack targets who are already on the ground
using civil forfeiture laws to take money and valuables from people during traffic stops without ever charging them with a crime
harassment, including things like ticketing a woman who told an officer she had HIV
If you've been the victim of police misconduct, it's nice to think that you could report the problem to their superior officers and resolve the issue, but it may not be the practical route. Agencies like Amnesty International have released disturbing studies that show an amazing lack of accountability nationwide for officer misconduct. In fact, over 50% of officers admit that it isn't unusual for one officer to overlook the improper conduct of another.
Consider contacting an attorney to handle your case and file a civil suit to address any damages that have been done to you through official misconduct. By stepping forward, you encourage other victims to do the same -- and encourage superior officers to weed out the officers that shouldn't be in uniform.
For more information, contact Morales Law or a similar firm.