Questions about Police Brutality

What constitutes “police brutality”?

Though police are legally allowed to use force if necessary, it should not extend to unreasonable force.  Police brutality is commonly defined as the use of excessive force.  This is not restricted only to physical attacks, but may include:

Physical injury False arrest Verbal attacks Physical intimidation Psychological manipulation Sexual abuse

Although sexual abuse is not always grouped with police brutality, it can be defined as the use of excessive measures against a detainee.

Why does police brutality happen?

Police brutality may be contributed to by a number of causes.  In the past, racial profiling and discrimination frequently caused police brutality.  But more recently studies show that perceived expectations or reactions to current events, such as the attacks on September 11, 2001, may prompt the use of excessive force by police officers.  Though various causes can contribute to police brutality, excessive force against a detainee or person under arrest is never excusable.

Who are the victims of police brutality?

Any individual may be the victim of police brutality, regardless of age, gender, race or background.  In the time following the 9/11 attacks, a higher portion of police brutality was aimed at individuals of middle-eastern or Islamic background.  Other targeted groups may be:

African Americans Hispanic Americans Homosexuals Religious extremists Younger men

How can I defend myself?

The best defense is to stay clear of situations where the police may become involved.  However, if you find yourself in an escalated situation where an officer is using excessive force, you should not try to retaliate.  Retaliation will not only make the situation more dangerous, but may subject you to charges of resisting arrest and assault against an officer of the law.

The best option is to offer unconditional surrender and allow the officer or officers to take you into custody.  If you are injured, you should be given medical attention in a timely manner.  After the situation is again calm, you should contact an attorney at your earliest opportunity and make notes on as many details as you can remember about the occurrence.  Keeping a record of what happened may be useful if your case goes to court.

Where is police brutality most common?

Unfortunately, police officers may use excessive force anywhere.  Although different causes of police brutality seem to be more common in some areas than others, it is impossible to know what may prompt it or who may be the victim.  One estimate lists the states which see the most cases of police misconduct as California, New York, Florida and Texas[1].

What laws protect against police brutality?

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S Constitution are the primary standard for protecting against police brutality.  The Fifth Amendment states that a person cannot be forced to act as a witness against himself, or be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.  This means an officer cannot force an individual to commit to a crime, nor can an individual be incarcerated without due process.  The fourteenth amendment adds that no person under the jurisdiction of the United States can be deprived of the protection of the law.


Please visit the website of the experienced police brutality attorneys at The Cochran Firm, with offices nationwide, and learn more.