Police Brutality/Excessive Force Attorneys in Kansas City, Missouri
Ever since the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, that nation has been focused on police misconduct and brutality – alleged or real – and caught between the need for public safety and holding police responsible for the harm they may cause to others.
On the local front, what if you or a loved one is subjected to police misconduct, excessive force, or brutality? What are your rights?
You can file a civil lawsuit against the individual officer or officers, but since a 1967 Supreme Court ruling, police have enjoyed “qualified immunity.” This means that they cannot be held personally liable for actions they take unless they violate “clearly established" statutory or constitutional rights – in other words, if they take action outside the bounds of their training and allowed procedures to violate someone’s rights.
You can also file what is known as a Section 1983 federal lawsuit for a violation of your civil rights, but the issue of qualified immunity still poses a bar to success. Nonetheless, since many of these lawsuits also name the police department as defendants, settlements often result.
If you or a loved one believes you have been subjected to police misconduct – or excessive force, or even brutality – in or around Kansas City, Missouri, contact the civil rights attorneys at the Denning Law Firm, LLC.
We can help you file a complaint with the relevant law enforcement agency and then pursue legal action as necessary. Our firm, Denning Law Firm, LLC, proudly serves clients in Kansas City, Kansas, and Overland Park as well.
What Is Considered Police Brutality?
Missouri has a law on the books that allows for the establishment of a civilian police review board in cities and counties statewide. In Kansas City, Missouri, there is an established Office of Community Complaints, a nonpolice civilian oversight agency, but it operates under the authority of the Board of Police Commissioners, and complaints are forwarded to the Internal Affairs Unit of the relevant agency for investigation and response.
The law authorizing these civilian agencies defines misconduct as “excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or use of offensive language, including, but not limited to, slurs relating to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability….”
Among the most commonly cited abuses in complaints and lawsuits include, but are not limited to:
Beating or shooting after a police chase
Illegal search and seizure
Demeaning strip searches
Assault with a club or flashlight
Using a chokehold
Planting drugs or evidence
Sexual harassment or assault
Violations of transgender rights
Gathering Evidence for Your Case
Not only will you have to go up against the qualified immunity defense of police officers, but you will also be required to provide evidence of the abuse with which you’re accusing the officer or officers. If this boils down to your word against theirs, you could be facing a tough road ahead, so you need to seek qualified legal counsel and do your part to prepare evidence.
To prevail in court, you and your attorney must show that the actions taken by the police exceeded what a reasonable person would consider justified, causing you injuries or violating your civil rights. Therefore, much as you would gather available evidence after an automobile accident, you, as the victim, will need to document everything that happened during the incident with the police. This process can include:
Writing down or recording on your cell phone everything that happened to the best of your memory.
Saving any damaged property (clothing, documents, physical possessions) and keeping them in a safe place.
Taking pictures or videos of your injuries and any available evidence.
Getting the names and contact information of any witnesses to the arrest/event.
Keeping a journal of everything that happens from the moment of your encounter with police going forward as you file a complaint, get responses and talk to various people – leave nothing out.
When Is Force Justified?
There is no national standard for what constitutes the justified use of force by police. The Supreme Court, however, has issued a couple of relevant decisions. In the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner, the court ruled that police could not use deadly force on a fleeing suspect except in cases where the suspect posed a threat of serious harm to the community.
In the 1989 decision in Graham v. Connor, the court ruled that "the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation."
While Missouri law does permit the use of deadly force on anyone “who has attempted to commit or has committed a felony,” the statute also dictates that the concept of “reasonableness” must be applied.
When cases of the excessive use of force by police reach the courtroom, a major issue is defining whether the use of force in question was “reasonable.”
Police Brutality/Excessive Force Attorneys Serving Kansas City, Missouri
If you or a loved one believe you have been the victim of police misconduct, excessive force, or brutality, contact the Denning Law Firm, LLC immediately. We will assess the circumstances, advise you of your rights and legal options, and help you pursue the proper course to seek redress for your harm. We proudly serve clients in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas, and throughout Overland Park.