When police in Passaic, New Jersey beat Ronnie Holloway outside a restaurant last May, the incident was captured on videotape and sparked an anti-police brutality rally. The police officer who was seen to engage in what appeared to be an unprovoked assault on the unarmed, peaceful and compliant Holloway was soon indicted. Police officer Joseph Rios was suspended from the force and pleaded not guilty to police misconduct and assault charges last November.
About Police Misconduct
While the Holloway case seemed to be an extreme example of police brutality, not all police misconduct cases involve such extreme behavior. Police are commonly placed in dangerous situations, forced to make instant judgments about impending threats. For this reason, police are held to a different standard when it comes to misconduct complaints than would apply in an ordinary personal injury case. For a police officer to be held liable for use of excessive force, the injured party must show that the police officer’s use of force was both unreasonable and willful.
Not all complaints against police involve brutality, of course. Misconduct claims may also arise from false arrest, profiling, malicious prosecution, failure to intervene, misuse of weapons and improper searches. In these cases, where the complainant suffers no physical injury, proving a case can be challenging.
The official police record may contain fabricated evidence to back up the errant police officer’s action. Not every victim of police misconduct finds that the incident underlying his complaint has been recorded on a security video. Experienced attorneys can make the difference between a police complaint being successfully prosecuted and being dismissed or ruled upon unfavorably.
Types Of Compensation
Proving a case of police brutality can result in a court judgment for compensatory damages to make the victim whole. Extreme cases may also result in a punitive damage award, designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter future wrongdoing. Medical expenses and attorney’s fees may also be awarded in appropriate cases.