When Police Use of Force is Unjustified

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedJun 19, 2020
3 minute read

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Obviously, there’s the George Floyd situation which is ridiculous. One of the most absurd things I’ve ever seen on video as far as law enforcement handling, trying to put someone in custody.

Mr. Rayshard Brooks’ Story

And then there’s the Rayshard Brooks situation where the man was shot in the back twice.

That’s not a justifiable police use of force obviously, and I’m gonna discuss why. 

The Brooks situation was very different in a lot of ways than what happened with George Floyd. And it looks like for the most part, what the officers were doing was just fine. Everything they were doing was legal, that had the legal basis for contacting Mr. Brooks when they received a report that he was passed out in his car.

The Police Encounter was Typical (and legal) at First

[Police] noticed signs of impairment, which justified investigating the DUI, and it looked like, based on what I’m reading, obviously I wasn’t there, that they had adequate probable cause to bring a charge.

And when they were going to placing Mr. Brooks into custody, that’s typical, even if they’re gonna take somebody home, law enforcement usually has to place them into some sort of custody briefly in order to determine whether or not that individual will provide a chemical test to assist in the conviction.

And what happened was, when they attempted to detain or arrest Mr. Brooks, there was a tussle and Mr. Brooks ran away.

What happens after that, there’s just no justification for.

To shoot somebody who is running away from you under those circumstances, is not a justifiable use of force.

What is Justified Police Use of Force

The only situation where I could see it being justifiable to shoot someone, for law enforcement to shoot somebody that’s actually running away from them, is if there’s a public safety risk involved.

If they know or have a reasonable suspicion that that person is a serial killer or has some sort of chemicals he’s gonna put in the water or she’s gonna put in the water, something where there’s a public safety risk, under these circumstances.

What Crime was Committed

[In Mr. Brooks’ case] that’s just so clearly not present, that there’s just no justification for it. And this officer Rolfe is clearly guilty of some sort of a crime, clearly guilty of some level of homicide.

How Mr. Brooks was not a Threat

When Mr. Brooks was running away from the officers, they knew he wasn’t armed, other than the taser that he’d taken from them.

And even further, if you look at it a little differently, they’ve got his car, and they can secure his car. So it’s not like they have to be concerned that he’ll get back in the car and drive. They have his driver’s license. You’re gonna find him.

So that concern’s ridiculous, and just the actions of shooting someone who is not posing any sort of an imminent threat, they are running away from you, is clearly not justified under these circumstances.

Unjustified Police Use of Force Furthers Police Mistrust

It’s another real unfortunate example right now of some of the scary things that are going on with law enforcement.

[The police’s] reaction in a situation like this, and it’s a shame because it puts everyone at risk, including other law enforcement.

A regular traffic stop right now, people are gonna be scared to even pull over and cooperate with the police based on some of the things they’re seeing.

How to Improve Public Safety & Public Relations

So it’s a completely unfortunate situation, obviously very important for the district attorney’s office and the judicial system to step in to make sure that these officers are held accountable.

Where Police Tend to Go Wrong

There’s a systemic problem that I’ve seen in my practice, I’ve never seen anything on the level of what happened in Minneapolis and what happened in Atlanta with Mr. Brooks and George Floyd [in Minneapolis], but I’ve seen situations where law enforcement escalated the situation where they didn’t have to.

More Accountability for Police Officers

Grabbing people who ended up being my clients and putting them on the ground and putting themselves in danger and the client in danger when they just didn’t have to do that.

When you’re trying to explain that to a prosecutor on occasion, there’s no accountability for that.

Well they have a hard job, you should’ve been compliant.

In order to avoid situations with people getting hurt and getting put in danger.

“There’s an opportunity there for that district attorney’s office to acknowledge that the force used by law enforcement was not commensurate with the situation.”

If somebody’s resisting, take adequate steps, but once the resisting done, there’s no need for three people to pile on top of for example, 145 pound kid.

So, really really tough situation and Officer Rolfe is, he and his partner, not only did they shoot Mr. Brooks, but then they don’t help him.

They just spend their time trying to figure out how to handle a situation that they knew was gonna go badly for them.

Inexcusable, definitely criminal on their part.

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