Police Brutality: Protecting Your Rights

How Can I Protect My Rights When It Comes to Police Brutality?

Police misconduct is an unfortunate occurrence that’s becoming increasingly common in this state. For the most part, police officers pride themselves on protecting citizens and keeping our cities safe. However, like any occupation that involves power, there are some bad seeds that abuse and misuse their authority, violating the rights of citizens. A recent case was brought to our attention in Queens that represents a disturbing instance of police brutality.

The city of New York reached a $169,000 settlement with Stefon Luckey after a 2013 case of police mistreatment. The Queens man was standing outside with friends when a few police officers broke up the group by stopping and frisking them. The officers got forceful and rough with Luckey, using pepper spray to take him down to be frisked. After consulting with an attorney about the matter, Luckey was able to voice his opinion in a courtroom about the racial profiling and excessive and needless violence used by the police officers. With no visible motive for the encounter and proof of unnecessary violence, the police officers didn’t stand a chance against Luckey and his attorney.

This story is becoming one that’s heard frequently and as a citizen, it’s important to know your rights against police brutality. At The Orlow Firm, we represent those who have been mistreated by police officers to bring justice and monetary settlements due to personal injury. More often than not, police misconduct happens to victims who haven’t even committed a crime. This abuse of power is illegal, especially if it causes bodily harm or injury to the victim. If you feel you’ve been the target of excessive force used by police, contact The Orlow Firm as soon as possible. In the state of New York, you only have 90 days from the time of the incident to file a claim against the police department.

As a law firm that specializes in police misconduct cases, we hope to bring your own case to justice, just like Stefon Luckey. A formal apology for misconduct and monetary help for your injury will not correct the situation. However, it can shine a light on the mistreatment that citizens face from police officers, and can hopefully contribute to a change.

With experience in police misconduct trials, Attorney Adam Orlow is a seasoned personal injury at The Orlow Firm. He’s heard many police brutality stories and represented countless victims. Attorney Orlow states:

“It is bad enough when police officers improperly stop someone for no legitimate reason. Worse, is when officers then try to justify the encounter by creating false charges against and/or physically attacking an innocent person.  Unfortunately, events like this occur all too often in this City and victims of such police abuse are able to protect their rights in court.”

If you feel you’ve been wrongly treated by a police officer, don’t be intimidated by the legal actions you need to take to get justice. The Orlow Firm is here to help you navigate the process and receive a satisfying outcome. For a confidential and thorough assessment of your NYC police misconduct case, give our experienced attorneys a call today at (646) 647-3398.

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What is False Arrest?

Police may not arrest an individual, seize property relating to an alleged crime, or conduct a search of a person or premises without probable cause. With proper authority, police can be said to have adequate reason to conduct a search, an arrest or a seizure of property. Probable cause to arrest stems from an officer’s knowledge of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Probable cause may not arise simply from a police officer’s suspicion or hunch. Instead, it must be grounded in facts or circumstances that would cause a reasonably prudent person to believe:

  • That the person to be arrested has committed the crime.
  • That the place to be searched is the scene of a crime.
  • That the place to be searched contains evidence of a crime.
  • That the property to be seized is stolen, contraband, or otherwise constitutes evidence of a crime.

Lack of Probable Cause

Normally, police have legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement. A police officer who arrests a person without probable cause or who knows the person to be innocent of criminal activity may be liable for false arrest. A person deprived of his liberty due to false arrest may also be wrongfully detained for a period of time. An individual who is falsely arrested may file a lawsuit against the arresting officer, the police department and the municipality for damages. Such damages may include mental distress, injury to reputation resulting in financial loss, and loss of salary while wrongfully detained .

Filing a Lawsuit

False arrest can be humiliating, emotionally devastating and expensive. However, holding a police officer liable for false arrest can be complicated. The police officer must have deliberately detained someone with no actual knowledge that the suspect committed a crime. Even arrests that turn out to be unjustified cannot be classified as false arrest if they were made with the proper legal authority. Allegations of false arrest should be carefully evaluated by a competent attorney who is familiar with the types of facts and damages involved in false arrest and other police misconduct cases.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of false arrest, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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What is Police Brutality?

Law enforcement officers are granted broad police powers on behalf of the citizens they serve. Unlike ordinary members of the community, police officers are allowed to engage in activity that interferes with the rights of others, even if it causes physical harm. As long as officers are acting within the proper scope of their duties, they will likely be granted immunity from civil prosecution for any harm caused. Police power is not unlimited, however. Law enforcement officers are bound by the law, the U.S. Constitution and by certain rules and regulations that govern their behavior.

Excessive Force

Police officers are permitted to use force in order to arrest an individual and protect themselves and the community. But the force must be reasonable. This means it must be the least amount of force necessary to control the situation and accomplish police objectives. The use of excessive force may represent police brutality if it directly violates a person’s constitutional right to be free of undue restraint upon his liberty. Lawsuits for police brutality often arise from the excessive use of force. There is no single, clear definition of police brutality. The question of whether police activity involves excessive use of force depends upon the specific facts of each case.

Examples of Police Brutality

Excessive use of force may be illustrated by the following situations. These are only a few of the possible scenarios created by police brutality.

  • Striking, kicking or otherwise injuring a person who has already been restrained.
  • Use of res training techniques that cause the suspect to have difficulty breathing. These actions may result in severe injury or death.
  • Use of pepper spray to disperse nonviolent, peaceful protesters.
  • Shoving or grabbing bystanders who are observing but not directly involved in a police incident.
  • Striking, kicking or otherwise injuring a suspect who is not resisting arrest, or whose resistance can be easily overcome with a minimum use of force.

Lawsuits for Police Brutality

Proving that an officer used excessive force can be difficult. Nowadays, however, the use of cell phone videos makes police brutality more visible and more difficult for the police to refute. Still, video recordings, as well as witness statements, must be carefully preserved and evaluated by a legal expert.

If you or a loved one has been victimized by police brutality or another type of police misconduct, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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What is Police Misconduct?

We entrust our police force with powers not available to other members of the community. In the lawful exercise of their duties, police officers may physically restrain another individual and even cause physical injury and property damage. Law enforcement officers are immune from lawsuits unless their actions can be shown to be willful and unreasonable. An officer who goes beyond the limits of his authority may be in violation of the law, police department regulations, and the U.S. Constitution. When the police exceed their authority and affect the rights of others, they may be liable for police misconduct. Victims of police misconduct may seek civil rights remedies as well as other damages under federal and state law.

Types of Police Misconduct

Police misconduct is a fairly broad concept that may include a variety of willful and unreasonable behaviors. In general, it arises from conduct that is unconstitutional, unethical, illegal, or in violation of departmental guidelines. At its most severe, police misconduct may involve police brutality that causes serious injury or even death. Other instances of police misconduct may include:

  • Sexual abuse of a suspect.
  • Falsifying evidence: this may consist of planting evidence at a crime scene or making up false witness statements.
  • False arrest/malicious prosecution: this occurs when police officers place a person in custody who they know to be innocent.
  • Coercing false confessions.
  • Intimidation
  • Corruption
  • Racial profiling.
  • Surveillance abuse.
  • Police drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Unlawful use of law enforcement databases for purposes of cyber-stalking and e-mail hacking.
  • Failure to Intervene: police officers are obligated to protect citizens from constitutional violations committed by fellow officers. Officers who witness such misconduct and fail to intervene may be liable to the victim for damages.

Police misconduct is not always easy to prove. A lawsuit for this type of behavior should be filed by an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. Mere negligence or the failure to exercise due care will not be enough to hold an officer liable for police misconduct.

Contact An Attorney

If you or a loved one has been a victim of police misconduct, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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Are There Remedies for Police Misconduct?

The website for New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) lists several reasons why you should file a report of police misconduct. By doing so, you create a permanent record of that officer’s history and, by subjecting him to possible discipline, you might bring about a positive change in his behavior. Alerting police commanders to misconduct by their officers might also result in ending abusive police practices. Further, complainants can choose to mediate their cases and speak to the officer directly. The CCRB accepts complaints by telephone, by letter, in person, or by completion of an online form. When you file a police misconduct report, says the CCRB, you have the opportunity for a full and fair investigation of your complaint by impartial citizen investigators.

Established by the City Council in 1992, the CCRB was created as an independent civilian agency to investigate police misconduct allegations ranging from obscenity to excessive use of force. Unfortunately, it has fallen far short of its stated goals. Even in those cases substantiated by board investigators, many result in no disciplinary measures taken by the Police Department. Over the last few years, rates of disciplinary action have fallen, from 74 percent in 2004, to 58 percent in 2009. Further, 40 percent of cases filed with the CCRB are rejected.

A 2011 study by the Citizens Crime Commission found that New York is far less aggressive in monitoring its police departments than cities like Chicago, Los Angeles or Philadelphia. In those cities, independent police oversight agencies have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel their appearance. In New York, on any given day, half of all police officers scheduled for an interview with the CCRB fail to appear, along with many witnesses and other individuals named in the complaints. Furthermore, it can take weeks or even months for the NYPD to produce records requested by board investigators. According to one complainant who filed a report of unlawful stop and frisk, the CCRB actually substantiated part of his case. But, after a year of taking no disciplinary measures, the Police Department closed his case with no further action or explanation.

In order to strengthen public confidence in the police disciplinary process, the CCRB has initiated a new project known as the Administrative Prosecution Unit. Under the APU, a board attorney is empowered to prosecute certain cases of police misconduct. The program, however, employs only one lawyer, and that position is currently vacant due to a city agency hiring freeze.

In New York’s Southern District Federal Court, a new program channels police misconduct cases directly into mediation. Effective August 1, 2011, complaints of federal civil rights violations, such as police misconduct, false arrest, excessive force and malicious prosecution, will be automatically designated for mediation. The goal is to promote early settlement, reduce litigation costs and relieve pressure on the federal docket. Since mediation is non-binding, parties may still proceed with litigation if they fail to reach an early settlement.

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