You may understand that New Jersey police and law enforcement across the country must at times use force to do their jobs. It may be important to quickly subdue those who are a danger to themselves or others, and it is sometimes necessary to overpower someone who is trying to get away from a lawful detainment. These actions may result in injuries, but they may be justifiable, depending on the circumstances.

The problem is that sometimes police exceed the amount of force they need to accomplish these tasks. If you have recently experienced such police brutality, you may wonder what your rights are and what your next steps should be.

Force beyond what is necessary

The U.S. Constitution protects you from acts of misconduct by law enforcement. For example, police may not search you without a warrant or probable cause, and they may not detain you without reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal act. However, it is the use of excessive force that has recently come to the attention of the media and citizens across the country. Ideally, police officers should not resort to physical force right away. In fact, the most reasonable escalation of force includes the following:

  • The mere presence of law enforcement will diffuse the situation.
  • If police presence does not resolve the conflict, police may use verbal warnings, orders or requests to attain their goals.
  • Failing this, officers may resort to physical force, which may include holding you, but it may also involve punching or kicking if the circumstances require more forceful actions.
  • If police do not have control of the situation, the next step in the escalation may be non-lethal actions, such as the use of Tasers, batons, chemical sprays or police dogs.
  • The final level of response is the use of lethal force, which includes firing a weapon.

If you do not struggle, fight, or attempt to injure the officers or others, there is no reason for police to escalate to physical force. In fact, if you choose to pursue a claim against an officer or agency that allegedly used excessive force against you, investigators will examine whether your behavior or the circumstances warranted the use of force.

You may feel that you have no recourse when you have suffered injuries at the hands of overly aggressive police officers. However, you can reach out to an attorney who has experience with these kinds of civil rights violations.