Police Abuse Cases

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Police Abuse Cases

Brien Roche

Tough Cases

Police abuse cases are tough cases. The police have the benefit of judicial and jury sympathy.  In addition they may have complete or limited immunity. Unless the police action is outrageous and the injuries serious these cases are not viable.

Police Abuse Cases Require Full Investigation

In investigating such a claim you must obtain all of the public records. These include warrant affidavits, coroner reports, medical records and incident reports. These may not be publicly available. Also you must look at whether the plaintiff did something that invited the police action. In addition it is important to consider the overall likeability of the plaintiff.

Police Abuse Cases are Difficult to Win

Jurors over the last many years have become somewhat insensitive to police abuse cases that do not involve serious injury. Therefore if the claim does not involve some serious injury it is not economically feasible to pursue.

Both judges and jurors are inclined to give police officers a certain amount of slack. This is so in cases where they’re being called upon to make split second judgments. These cases are tough. The sympathy may weigh in favor of the police.  However if your case involves clear evidence of police lying or police abuse then jurors are inclined to set aside their pro-police feelings and hold the officer liable.

Police Abuse In Prince George County,Maryland

The Washington Post on December 30, 2012 published an editorial dealing with an incident at the University of Maryland.   On March 3, 2010 after Maryland’s basketball victory over Duke there were prolonged and rowdy street demonstrations in College Park, MD.

The Prince George’s County Police were called in. One of the students that the police encountered was a young man by the name of John McKenna. He was skipping along the street when he encountered the police.  McKenna was unarmed and unthreatening.  He was thrown to the ground and beaten repeatedly. As a result he needed eight metal staples to close a wound in this scalp.   He sued the Prince George’s County Police and recovered a settlement of $2 million.

Police Lies

The Police lied. The initial explanation was that McKenna had attacked and injured a mounted police officer. They claimed the horse kicked him.  However a video of the event showed this was false.   For many months the police refused to disclose the identity of the officers involved.  Finally two officers were charged with aggravated assault.  One of them was found not guilty.

Criminal Charge Against Officer

The other officer was found guilty in a jury trial presided over by Circuit Judge Beverly Woodard.  She failed to disclose that she had been previously married to a Prince George’s County police officer. This officer had been convicted in 1998 of shooting an unarmed victim. The victim was on his back on the ground and the officer shot him with a confiscated BB gun.  She never disclosed that.

It was disclosed by a news reporter who testified at trial. The reporter confronted the Judge with that evidence.  The judge called a halt to the proceedings and then discussed the matter with counsel in chambers. There was no court reporter present.  There is no record as to what the judge said. However she decided she did not have a conflict and the trial proceeded. Contact us for help.

Judicial Bias

The Washington Post reports that the Judge repeatedly showed her bias against the prosecution. She did this through facial expressions. She turned her back on the prosecutor during the closing statements.  Those gestures did not go unnoticed by the jury.

The officer that was charged with second degree assault was convicted.  Judge Woodard imposed the most lenient sentence available. It consisted of 30 days of home detention and 18 months of unsupervised probation.  The officer thereafter retired with full pension.  During the sentencing the judge vilified the unruly students.  By implication she involved Mr. McKenna in her rant. There was no evidence he was unruly.

The police department’s internal affairs office in the course of investigating the matter did not interview most of the students who were injured.

The Washington Post in an editorial recommended that the US Justice Department step in and prosecute the officers involved for civil rights violations.

Police Shootings

Police shootings have become more frequent. The traditional rule about shooting is that an officer is not to shoot an unarmed person. There may be some exceptions to that. However they are rare. The officer is expected to gain control of the suspect and handcuff him. The officer has a number of tools at his disposal. They are mace, a night stick and his own ability in hand to hand combat. In addition the officer does not have to fight fair. The officer simply has to win. This may mean breaking the suspect’s collarbone, dislocating a knee or kicking him in the shins. The goal is to get control. If the officer cannot do this then he probably does not belong on the force. Having spent four years as a police officer with the Washington D.C. police (MPDC) I have some knowledge of this.

Police Surveillance

Cell phone technology has become so sophisticated that police surveillance now includes tracking  people almost down to the square foot. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit held that the police did not violate any constitutional right by monitoring cell signals from a drug dealer. The police used those signals to locate the person.  However the U.S. Supreme Court, in January 2012, stated that the police did violate the rights of a drug dealer by placing a tracking device on his car.  The decision was a narrow one. It dealt only with the issue of placing an object on a citizen’s vehicle.  In other words it left open the issue of what rules are to be followed in collecting location data from cell phones.

Cell phones are so sophisticated that they are capable of emitting location data continuously. This applies as users either check traffic, search the web or look for a map or otherwise utilize the phone.

Also there are decisions from other courts that state that info that is available in the public domain which can be gathered by the police through phone data can be used by the police for any purpose.

For more info about police abuse see the pages on Wikipedia.

For Police Abuse Cases Contact an Injury Attorney

If you feel you have become a victim of police misconduct in the Northern Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. area contact Brien Roche.

Also see police for a review of Virginia case law dealing with the police. In addition see the other pages on this site dealing with intentional torts.

In addition see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Police Abuse Cases

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation