Author : Wendy Erickson
Police are authorized to protect citizens and make sure people don’t break the law.
However, we have witnessed cases where the police have used too much force while carrying out these duties.
With George Floyd’s case still fresh in our minds, we can’t help but feel vulnerable in the face of such brutality and excessive force.
We, in New Jersey, have not been spared and cases such as the one in Ridgewood, where a boy accused of obstructing traffic was arrested in a manner that felt excessively forceful.
What is excessive force?
Excessive police force, also known as police brutality, is a violation of your civil rights.
Although it’s important to respect law enforcement officers, when they go too far and infringe on people’s rights, their victims deserve justice.
Unfortunately, when the law that is supposed to protect you violates your rights, you may wonder if it is any use pursuing justice and many people shy away from fighting for their rights after police brutality incidents.
Well, it is important to know that there are laws that protect your rights and New Jersey criminal lawyers who can help you fight such injustices.
Which laws protect citizens against police brutality?
A police officer has treated you with excessive force if they overreact when dealing with a situation where they are not in imminent danger, for example, when an officer beats an unarmed or unresisting suspect during an arrest, that may be considered as excessive use of force.
In the cases highlighted above, you see an instance where brutality is fatal. Such acts by police are also referred to as acts of police misconduct.
It’s illegal under Title 34 USC section 12601 for police officers to deprive people of their constitutional rights by engaging in unlawful conduct.
Certain actions by law officers can be interpreted as acts of brutality or injustice. For example;
Abuse of process
The Fourth Amendment requires police officers to carry out their search and seizure responsibilities in a reasonable manner.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits police officers from carrying out their duties, such as arresting suspects in a manner that may be considered cruel and unusual.
According to the law, a police officer should only use force that is proportional to a threat and stop when force is no longer necessary.
New Jersey laws and police brutality
In New Jersey, police have civil rights laws they must adhere to when dealing with suspects to ensure they do not violate their rights or commit acts of brutality.
For example, Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes protects civilians against acts of police misconduct.
Title 42 of Section 1983, a statute that is part of the Civil Rights Act (1871), allows victims of police brutality to file a suit for injunctive or monetary compensation against state government employees.
Note that under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, if you have a complaint against the police, you have 90 days from the day you experience police brutality or misconduct to file a notice that protects you right to sue the police department.
The notice informs the municipality and the law officer you are intending to file a claim against about your plans.
What do victims of police brutality do?
As individuals, we have to act responsibly during our interaction with the police.
It’s important to note the way you behave while in the presence of a police officer can be used by them to justify excessive force later.
Therefore, if accosted by a law officer, our first instinct should be to stop, cooperate, and not run away. There is also no need to act aggressively towards them.
However, law officers do sometimes cross the line and act violently towards suspects.
If you have been a victim of police misconduct, or you feel police officers have infringed on your constitutional rights, you should speak to a lawyer.
It helps if you have a witness, pictures of injuries, a hospital report or even a video showing the police officer engaging in violence.
The bottom line is, police injustice is unacceptable, and the law protects you against it.
If it happens to you, silence is not the answer.
An experienced criminal lawyer can help you fight for your rights.