An experienced Michigan police misconduct lawyer can help if you or a loved one was injured by a law enforcement officer.
Our personal injury lawyers represent victims of police beatings, shootings, and other types of abuse.
Police officers have a dangerous job and most act in accordance with required procedures when making an arrest or investigating a complaint. However, there are still many instances of brutality and physical harm being reported daily.
It may seem as if incidents of police assaults are on the rise. However, many experts believe this is only because of new technology. In fact, many experts contend the numbers may have even been much higher in the past.
Police body cameras and witness cell phone videos have made police beatings public on both the internet and broadcast television news. These assaults had never been captured on video in the past and the public is horrified by the violence.
The attorneys at Buckfire Law Firm will fully investigate your case and get you the justice you deserve. We specialize in filing lawsuits for victims of police misconduct, abuse, and assaults.
- Frequently asked questions about police misconduct
- Police shooting and killings statistics
- When can you sue a police department?
- Who investigates police abuse claims?
- How much are police abuse settlements?
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We will put the same hard work into your case that we have done for injury victims for the past 50 years.
What is Considered Police Brutality?
Police brutality is a form of police misconduct. It is the use of excessive physical force by a police officer or other law enforcement officials. It is essentially the use of force beyond what is reasonably necessary to arrest, apprehend, or question a suspect or any other person.
Police abuse is similar to assault and battery by a private individual. Police do not have the authority to unreasonably injure people simply because they have a badge and a uniform. In fact, they are trained to restrain from abuse whenever possible.
Examples of Police Misconduct
There are many examples of police misconduct. These include:
Shootings of innocent and unarmed people
Police shootings of innocent and unarmed people are a serious problem. An officer should not shoot a person who is not in the commission of a crime. Nor should the police fire a gun at someone unless the person poses an immediate risk of injury or death to others.
Shooting a firearm at a criminal perpetrator or suspect should always be the last option. Officers are trained to use less deadly measures first and only shoot if the situation is urgent. Many police shooting victims are unarmed and pose no danger to anyone. Others are mentally ill and proper communication will usually end any potential threat without a shooting.
Assaults and Beatings
Police officers should only use the force needed to apprehend and subdue a criminal suspect. Officers should not unnecessarily physically assault a person for any other reason.
Numerous incidents are reported daily of officers beating people with billy clubs, flashlights, and other objects. There have been several deaths from officers using chokeholds or otherwise suffocating people to death from other maneuvers. These actions are completely unlawful and violate a person’s civil and constitutional rights.
Unjustified Use of Stun Guns
Stun guns are dangerous weapons and should only be used in urgent circumstances. A police officer should only use a stun gun to stop a confrontation. They are designed to incapacitate an attacker at a distance. They are preferred over the use of a firearm, but still pose a risk of serious injury or death.
A recent Reuters investigation identified 1,081 deaths involving the use of stun guns. In many of those instances, the use of a stun gun was not warranted under the circumstance. In several hundred instances, the family of the victim sued the government for the stun gun death and received a settlement payout.
Sexual Assaults and Rape
Police sexual assaults and rape are typically unreported. Victims are afraid to report the assaults for fear of retribution against them.
In the United States, police officers were criminally charged with more than 400 rapes in the decade between 2005 and 2015. In Michigan alone, there were 11 charges of forcible rape by officers during that period. Other sex assaults include fondling, forcible sodomy, indecent exposure, and sexual assaults with objects. Illegal strip searches are a form of sexual assault.
False arrest and imprisonment
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that a person has the right to be free from unreasonable seizures. This amendment applies to false arrest cases. A law enforcement officer may not arrest someone there is probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime.
False arrest occurs when your freedom of movement or your ability to leave a place is taken away from you. There must be reasonable suspicion to stop you or take you into police custody. An officer cannot arrest a person and come up with a reason for the arrest at a later time. If this happened, you may have the right to sue for a false arrest.
Examples of false arrests include making up false charges, racial profiling. Also referred to as a wrongful arrest, victims can sue the police department for recoverable damages in a false arrest lawsuit. The amount of damages is based upon a number of factors, including the basis used for the false arrest and the impact of the arrest on a person’s life.
False imprisonment is when a person was unlawfully taken into police custody. There must be a legitimate reason to bring someone in for questioning or for temporary jailing. False imprisonment can be for a short time and does not have to be for lengthy incarceration.
Improper searches and seizures
The Fourth Amendment also prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. The law is intended to prevent having police from having unlimited checks on their authority. Officers can only search a person if there is probable cause at the time of the search. Otherwise, an officer must obtain a court warrant to search a person or property. Without a warrant, the actions may be unlawful the victim can sue the police officer for an unlawful search and seizure.
Questions About Police Abuse & Misconduct
When can the police shoot someone?
Officers are trained to only fire their guns as a last resort. They must reasonably believe their lives or the lives of others are in danger to justify firing their weapon. This is known as the “defense of life standard.”
Police shootings involve both armed and unarmed people. Many of these victims present no immediate harm or danger to the officer. Some are shot while in a car, with their back turned, and even running away from the officer.
Quite often, the reasons used to shoot someone are not justified by the circumstances. When this happens, the victim can file a police shooting lawsuit. In the event of a fatal police shooting, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is it considered a police beating?
A police beating is when an officer causes unreasonable serious injury and harm to a person. Officers are legally permitted to physically assault or beat a person suspected of a crime. They can only use reasonable measures to apprehend or restrain a person.
It does not matter whether the person committed a criminal act or not. Even criminals have the right to be properly restrained and apprehended without suffering a serious injury, especially if they are cooperative with the officers.
Certainly, police officers can and should defend themselves against aggressive people. The issue is when they assault or beat a person who is restrained, helpless, or not even fighting back. Beatings often occur in police cars or on the roadside.
How do you determine what is excessive force?
Excessive force refers to the physical force used beyond what a police officer reasonably believes is necessary under the circumstances. This would include brutal physical force, such as punching or striking a person with a blunt instrument like a flashlight, club, or other equipment.
Excessive also includes the use of stun guns when one is not necessary for restraint. Officers are trained to use the least amount of force possible to arrest or apprehend a criminal or crime suspect. Law enforcement officers cannot legally use physical force to coerce a statement or admission for anyone.
In addition, the police cannot use a chokehold or similar tactic that is in excess of the force required to effectuate an arrest. Recently, several noted excessive force deaths were caused by asphyxiation due to choking or deadly restraint techniques. Many states have prohibited police chokehold restraints for use by law enforcement officials.
Finally, the use of excessive force has been found when officers place handcuffs too tightly on a suspect. This can cause significant nerve damage to the arms and hands. There is a proper way to place handcuffs to not injure a person.
What is an unlawful arrest?
An unlawful arrest occurs when the police arrest someone without legal cause. Also called a wrongful arrest, these include cases when a person is arrested:
- Due solely to a citizen being in the area of a crime.
- Because of a vindictive or overzealous officer.
- After the planting of false evidence or insufficient evidence.
- From racial profiling or improper identification.
A person who is unlawfully arrested can face severe consequences. This may include incarceration, embarrassment, and humiliation, and the fear of being convicted for a crime not committed.
A wrongful arrest can be the basis of a police misconduct lawsuit.
When is police conduct a sexual assault?
Incidents of sexual assaults by law enforcement personnel are a form of police misconduct. An officer cannot touch any person in a sexual manner at any time.
While many frisks and searches include pat-downs of the chest and genital areas, these must be performed in a non-sexual manner. It is illegal for an officer to act outside the boundaries of performing these procedures when dealing with a suspect.
Further, under no circumstances can an officer demand a sexual favor in exchange for the leniency of a suspect. Clearly, this is beyond any possible acceptable practice or procedure and is unlawful.
When can a police officer use deadly force?
Deadly force refers to force which a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. It is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity.
The use of deadly force by law enforcement officers is lawful only when the officer reasonably believes the subject poses a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or other persons.
Police officers must perceive these risks and act quickly. There are times when deadly force is justified based upon these quick decisions and other times when it is not.
When it is not justified, the officers and their department can be held accountable for the death.
Police Killing Statistics
A police killing is when a person dies from being shot, beaten, restrained, struck, pepper-sprayed, shocked, or otherwise abused by a police officer. This includes whether officers who are on-duty and off-duty.
Many police killing victims were unarmed at the time of their death. Many victims had no objects or weapons, were holding toy guns, or were innocent bystanders when shot by a policeman.
Innocent victims have been killed when an officer intentionally hits them with a police vehicle. Others die due to strangulation and asphyxiation, caused by chokeholds or being unable to breathe due to officers on their chest.
A new study finds that about 1 in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to die as a result of police violence over the course of their lives — a risk that’s about 2.5 times higher than their white peers.
Statistics show that police killed 1,143 people in 2018. African-Americans were 23% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. The numbers show that 21% of those victims were unarmed at the time. Of those deaths, in over 95% of the time, the officers involved were not charged or convicted of a crime.
The numbers rose in 2019. In that year, 1004 people were killed by the police across the United States. There were 13 fatal police shootings in Michigan that year.
The bar chart below shows the total number of police killings in Michigan that have happened from January 2013 through December 2019 — data courtesy of MichiganPoliceViolence.org.
Examples of Michigan Police Misconduct Jury Verdicts & Settlements
- $36,630,000 jury verdict for a Genesee County Jail inmate who was severely beaten by deputies after a DWI arrest.
- $6,800,000 jury verdict for a man shot to death by a Marine City police officer.
- $3,000,000 wrongful death settlement for a police shooting incident in Kalamazoo County.
- $1,100,000 settlement for a woman who sued Kalamazoo County deputies for excessive force that caused physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- $725,000 settlement for a mentally ill man shot to death by Saginaw police.
Police Misconduct Case Study
A police misconduct lawsuit was filed involved the shooting death of a twenty-three-year-old man in Flint Township. He was pulled over by police for a traffic stop but got out of his car and began to flee. While fleeing, he was shot and killed by the police officer.
Plaintiffs proved the police officer had no reasonable justification for the shooting. The city then agreed to pay a wrongful death settlement to his family in the amount of $ 1,390,000.
What are the Police Shooting Statistics?
It is clear that there is a problem with police shootings in Michigan, as well as around the country.
While there seems to be a new story making headlines every week, the statistics on police shootings are just as alarming.
- As of July 10, 2019, there had already been 480 people shot and killed by police.
- In 2018, police shot and killed 1,166 people throughout the country.
- 2018’s statistics were an increase from 2017 when 1,147 people were shot and killed by police.
- In 2017, 25 percent of those shot and killed by police were African-American, even though they make up only 13 percent of the nation’s population.
- African-Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than Caucasians.
- 30 percent of the African-American victims killed by police in 2015 were unarmed. 21 percent of Caucasians were unarmed when killed by police in the same year.
- In 2018, there were only 23 days in the entire calendar year that police did not shoot and kill someone.
- 13 of the 100 largest police departments in the country shoot and kill African-Americans at higher rates than the murder rate for the entire country. These police departments include those in Reno, Santa Ana, Scottsdale, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Spokane.
- Law enforcement often states these shootings are necessary to stop crime. However, in 2014, over two-thirds of African-Americans shot and killed by police were not suspected of a crime or armed at the time of their death.
- 99 percent of police shootings do not result in the officer being convicted of a crime.
Sadly, the majority of police departments around the country today have not implemented use-of-force policies, and officers are rarely held accountable.
When Can you Sue a Police Officer?
Any person who unreasonably assaulted, beaten, or abused by a police officer can sue both the officer and police department. These cases can result in large settlements.
A police officer may be held liable for using excessive force in an arrest, an investigatory stop, or other seizures.
A police officer may also be liable for not preventing another police officer from using excessive force.
Can I Sue the Police Department?
The police department may also be liable in a police misconduct case. Usually, the city, county, or other agency operating the department is named in the lawsuit.
If an officer is on duty at the time, the police department is also liable. For off-duty officers, the employer may still be liable depending on the circumstances.
In addition to the legal claims for the assault itself, there are several theories of negligence that can be asserted against the department. These include the:
- Negligent hiring of the officer, such as hiring a person unfit for the job or with a history of previous similar incidents with a different department.
- Improper training of a police officer before starting with the department and during employment. Ongoing training is required for proper safety procedures.
- Failing to properly supervise an officer, especially one that has a history of questionable assault behavior and bad conduct.
- Negligent retention of an officer, meaning keeping a bad actor employed by the department despite previous incidents of misconduct and dangerous acts.
Our attorneys will fully investigate all aspects of your case to determine if the department can be held liable for damages.
We pursue all legal avenues to get you the best possible monetary settlement in your case.
Who Investigates Police Misconduct?
The internal affairs department of the law enforcement agency is assigned to investigate complaints of police misconduct. In some cases, an outside police agency will be brought in to investigate the matter to avoid potential conflicts or appearances of a cover-up.
There are strict rules for investigating these claims.
It is also smart to hire an experienced police misconduct lawyer for your case. Many police departments are more focused on protecting their reputation than sharing the truth with both victims and the public.
Cities and other entities also want to avoid lawsuits so their investigations can be slanted against the abuse victim.
How do I File a Police Misconduct Lawsuit?
Lawsuits for police abuse include claims for violations of both federal and state laws. Many suits are filed in federal courts due to constitutional violations and civil rights violations. These include federal violations of:
- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which states that peace officers who subject any U.S. resident to “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” may be held civilly liable for those injuries.
- Fourth Amendment prohibiting excessive and unreasonable force as well as the denial of necessary medical care when the need for treatment was known.
State and local municipality claims are made for assault and battery, substandard training, and inadequate policies. Many state allegations are similar to the federal violations but are based upon Michigan laws and statutes.
To successfully prove a police misconduct civil lawsuit, the evidence must establish that the force used exceeded the level necessary for the purpose it was used.
This standard can be established by the use of an expert witness, who is typically a former chief law enforcement officer. Ultimately, it is up to a jury to decide if the officer and department should be liable for the allegations of misconduct.
How Much are Police Misconduct Settlements?
Settlements in a police abuse lawsuit include payment for the physical harm, psychological harm, and economic losses suffered by the victim and family.
Economic losses include medical expenses, lost income, and other financial losses resulting from the incident. There is generally no limit to the amount of a settlement. Every case is different depending on the facts, circumstances, and injuries.
In cases involving wrongful death, a settlement can be sought for the victim’s pain and suffering from the time of the incident until death. They also claim compensation for the loss of companionship suffered by the family members.
Since 2015, the City of Detroit has paid out more than $25 million in police misconduct claims. This includes a $925,000 settlement for a man shot in the back and two claims totaling $4.5 million for men sent to prison for crimes they did not commit.
Most recently, the City of Detroit reached an $8.25 million settlement with the family of a young girl shot during a police raid. The police department denied any wrongdoing for the death. Facts and information obtained in a lawsuit showed it was an unjustified shooting.
Who can File a Police Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although police officers can face criminal penalties for unlawfully killing someone, they are rarely charged or prosecuted. However, families or victims are often successful in a civil wrongful death lawsuit against officers and departments.
When someone has died from a police assault or shooting, their surviving family members can file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. These cases demand compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent before death and for the loss of companionship by the family members. There is no limit to these amounts.
Financial losses, like lost income and funeral expenses, can also be awarded to the family. If the decedent supported a family, those damages are recoverable in the suit.
What is Time Limit to Sue for Police Misconduct?
The time deadline to file a lawsuit is referred to as the “statute of limitations.”
Under federal laws, there is no time period specified under the law. Rather, the law requires courts to follow the state laws that specify these deadlines.
In Michigan, there is a three-year statute of limitations for actions involving negligence. This time limit includes cases for police misconduct and abuse.
It is smart to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the incident to begin your investigation.
If you wait too long, it becomes more difficult to gather the necessary evidence and locate witnesses.
How Much do Police Misconduct Lawyers Charge?
The lawyer fees vary depending on the law firm you choose to represent you. Our lawyers will handle your case under our No Fee Promise. This means we do not charge any legal fees unless you win a settlement.
Best of all, we pay all of the case expenses in pursuing your lawsuit and costs nothing to get started. If your case is unsuccessful for any reason, you owe us nothing!
Contact a Michigan Police Abuse Attorney
If you or someone you care about was the victim of police brutality or excessive force, contact our law firm today.
Our experienced attorneys will answer all of your questions and start our investigation of your case immediately.
Michigan Police Misconduct References and Resources
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