Police Brutality Laws in the United States

Instructor: Deona Cureton

I have taught honors English in high school, have an BA in Political Science and English, Master's in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, and completing my PhD in Public Administration & Policy with a concentration in Law & Public Policy

From the Rodney King case which sparked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots to the brutal 2017 slaying of Philando Castile, police brutality has existed in society. In this lesson, readers will learn how police brutality is defined and what laws are in place to help protect citizens.

Police Brutality Laws in the United States

While at work, you notice that your cell phone is vibrating profusely with notification updates from Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter. ''What is going on?'' you ask yourself. You begin scrolling and realize that there has been yet another case of police brutality in the United States. A young minority male was shot 7 times and died on site.

This is what happened when the victim informed the police officer that he was armed with a registered handgun, but Philando Castile was only reaching for his ID to show the officer. There are some laws established to protect citizens from police brutality, while some are more geared towards protecting the police. In this lesson, you will learn how police brutality is defined, laws that were created to detour the act, and cases that reflect how some of the laws were enacted.

Police Brutality: Definition

Police brutality is defined as the excessive use of physical force or violence towards someone by law enforcement or inflicting unwarranted harm on someone by law enforcement. Police brutality has occurred since the beginning of the creation of law enforcement. This has been due to poor training, overt or implicit racism in society and the type of the people police departments attract to work as police officers.

Technology (in terms of the smartphone) has allowed the live streaming of events via numerous social media avenues. Citizens now have the ability to show that police brutality does exist and is no longer hidden. All citizens now have the opportunity to show the world how they live with police brutality. It begs the question, ''What laws can protect me? What laws can make police brutality stop?'' In the next section, you will learn about several laws that can make law enforcement officials accountable for police brutality.

Police brutality is defined as the excessive use of physical force or violence towards someone by law enforcement or inflicting unwarranted harm on someone by law enforcement
Police brutality is defined as the excessive use of physical force or violence towards someone by law enforcement or inflicting unwarranted harm on someone by law enforcement.

Police Brutality: Laws in the United States

There are several federal laws that can protect American citizens from police brutality or assist citizens in filing suits against law enforcement if such acts have occurred.

Title 18 of the United States Code makes it illegal for law enforcement to intentionally keep or conspire to keep citizens from expressing or invoking any of their rights that are protected by the Constitution or United States law. Title 18 of the United States Code can be applied to many forms of police brutality, including but not limited to intimidation, excessive lethal force, sexual assaults, excessive physical force, and the use of pepper spray in an improper manner. Under Title 18, the law, however, does not allow for citizens to file civil suits against police for financial motives.

Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act is another law that helps citizens who have faced police brutality. Under Title 6, the statute states that it is illegal for local and state law enforcement officers to discriminate against citizens based on their ethnicity, nationality, gender, and/or religious affiliation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) created legal protections against police brutality and/or police discrimination for individuals with disabilities. The ADA generally could be applied to situations in which racial slurs, unjustified detainment, the use of excessive force, and/or racial profiling occurred towards individuals who have some form of a disability. Under the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals who have suffered effects from police brutality or experienced police brutality can, however, file civil lawsuits.

Police Brutality: Case Examples

Regarding police brutality, laws, regulations, and stipulations define what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in applying physical force. These rulings are normally determined by county, city, and state courts. This not only confuses matters by creating inconsistencies when adjudicating cases, but it also doesn't allow for a case precedent to be established either in the city, county or state judicial system.

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