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Frequently Asked Questions about Police Brutality

Q.

What is meant by "police brutality"?

A.

APolice brutality@ is a common term used to describe the use by police officers of more force than is necessary in making arrests or controlling persons. "Police Brutality" or "Excessive Force" claims frequently are made when someone is injured or killed during the course of a search or an arrest.

Q.

Why is this a legal issue?

A.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution entitles citizens to be free from Aunreasonable searches and seizures.@ The Supreme Court has held that the amount of force constitutionally used by officers in making arrests or searches is determined by the Areasonableness@ standard of the Fourth Amendment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)

Q.

So, what is "reasonable"?

A.

Reasonableness is an objective standard. It does not depend on the officer=s motivations. It is determined by looking at all of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer at the time force is used. It is viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, not from what is known in hindsight.

Q.

Is killing by a police office ever reasonable?

A.

Yes. The reasonable use of deadly force, such as shooting a suspect, is limited to situations in which the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others. An officer may not use deadly force to capture a fleeing felon unless the suspect has threatened the officer or the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime causing or threatening to cause serious physical harm. Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 11 (1985)

The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice or representation.  You should talk with an attorney if you have any questions about how this information applies to your own problem or facts.