Given that officers have to interact with criminals, those impaired by mind-altering substances and those experiencing mental health emergencies, they need to be able to protect themselves. They have training in the use of physical force and typically carry firearms and other weapons.
Sometimes, the actions an officer takes will cross the line between protection and unjustifiable violence. Those who have been severely hurt by a police officer might want to pursue a police brutality claim. The officer will have protection under both state and federal law when facing such accusations. Yet, they will also be held to specific standards when responding to a brutality claim.
The use of force should be reasonable
It would be impossible to impose specific rules that would apply to every situation where an officer might use physical force, so instead there is a broad rule that is interpreted on a case-by-case basis. An officer should reasonably believe that the individual poses a threat to them or others that are present.
In New Jersey, officers should only use physical force as a last result when other interventions have failed. They should also restrict their use of force to what is immediately necessary for their protection or the safety of others. Factors including the possibility of the presence of a weapon could influence what other people believe would be an appropriate use of force. Officers have even avoided conviction for opening fire on someone for simply driving in a vehicle, as the courts have ruled that vehicles can be deadly weapons.
Although it may be a challenge, a successful claim is possible
While it isn’t easy for someone to prove that a police officer inappropriately used an unnecessary amount of force in their attempt to arrest or question someone, successful claims are possible with the right evidence and the right approach.
Provided that officers exceeded the protections extended to them under the law, an individual hurt by excess force or those who lost a loved one in a case where police may have overstepped their authority may have the right to pursue a civil claim and potentially secure compensation for the losses their family has had to absorb.
Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the rules that apply to police brutality cases can help those who have experienced a very poor outcome as a result of a recent interaction with law enforcement professionals.