Articles Posted in Police Brutality Misconduct

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DOC.jpgOn Monday, February 21st, seven prison guards from Macon State Prison were arrested on charges of beating Mr. Terrence Dean, a client of Williams Oinonen LLC, so badly that he sustained brain injuries and was partially paralyzed.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that the guards had assaulted Mr. Dean: Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead stated that the seven prison guards– Christopher Hall, Ronald Lach, Derrick, Wimbush, Willie Redden, Darren Douglass Griffin, Kerry Bolden and Delton Rushin — were arrested Monday after they reported to work at the prison.

The GBI investigation began amid reports that guards attacked inmates at two state institutions – Macon State Prison and Smith State Prison near Savannah. The alleged assaults came at the end of a six-day protest and work stoppage at nearly a dozen facilities.

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The Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the family of Michael McIntyre, a young black man who was shot and killed after being gunned down five times in the back by Tallassee, Alabama Police on December 29th, is calling for the Department of Justice and FBI to conduct a thorough investigation into their son’s death. Tallassee is a small rural town in eastern Alabama with a population of 5000 and a racial makeup of 80 percent white and 18 percent black.

News reports stated that the Tallassee police was serving a warrant at an apartment where Michael was visiting a friend. Michael did not have any warrants for his arrest, nor were the police looking for him. Witnesses reported that they observed police officers chasing Michael, the lead officer having a gun in his hand and that they did not observe Michael having a gun or threatening the police with a weapon as he ran from them. The police attempted to taze Michael and then shot him in the back as he was running away from them. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation reported to the family that police’s first shot landed in Michael’s upper left back, the second shot went directly into his spine, the third into his left buttock , the fourth shot went into his aortic valve, and the last shot landed in his upper left buttocks.

Reports stated that the police claimed that Michael McIntyre had produced a pistol as he was running away from the police and a gun was later found by the scene. However, the family emphasized that witnesses they interviewed never observed Michael with a gun as he was being chased by the police, and that witnesses also reported that they observed the police back a white SUV up to Michael’s body and carry something from the back of the SUV towards the body immediately after the shooting.

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police.jpgLast month the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied two Florida police officers motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. Sanchez v. Hialeah Police Dep’t, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 27607 (11th Cir. Fla. Dec. 16, 2009)

A young man, Erik Sanchez, had sued them in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. In his suit he contended that the City of Hialeah Police Officer Del Nodal had violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force by repeatedly striking him in the head with a baton and that fellow Officer Garrido failed to intervene. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity for the police.

The position Officer Del Nodal argued was that his reaction was objectively reasonable when he opened the car door, punched Sanchez in the eye, and sprayed him with mace after Sanchez broke the police car window. However, as Erik Sanchez, a minor at the time of the attack explained, Officer Garrido pulled Sanchez from the car, ordered him to the ground filled with broken glass, and repeatedly struck him with a baton after macing him. Sanchez also alleges that Officer Del Nodal of striking him 10 times with his baton — with 5 blows going to his head — resulting in at least two head lacerations requiring 15 metal staples to close, causing heart abnormalities, and life threatening injuries.

The Court of Appeals ruled that a jury, taking the facts in a light most favorable to Sanchez, could reasonably find that Officer Del Nodal violated Sanchez’s right to be free from excessive force and that qualified immunity does not apply.

Under the law of analyzing the applicability of qualified immunity, the Court has at its disposal a two-step process. Traditionally, a court first determines whether the officer’s conduct amounted to a constitutional violation. Second, the court analyzes whether the right violated was clearly established at the time of the violation.

The Court in this particular case analyzed the claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment’s ‘objective reasonableness’ standard.” Thus, the question was whether the officer’s conduct is objectively reasonable in light of the facts confronting the officer. Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.

The Court explained that the analysis requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Additional considerations include: (1) the need for the application of force, (2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, (3) the extent of the injury inflicted and, (4) whether the force was applied in good faith or maliciously and sadistically. Hadley v. Gutierrez, 526 F.3d 1324, 1329 (11th Cir. 2008)

Notably, the Court of Appeals explained that they consistently have allowed an excessive force claim to go forward where an arrestee was handcuffed, posed no risk of danger to the officer, and was not resisting arrest. Sanchez v. Hialeah Police Dep’t, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 27607 (11th Cir. Fla. Dec. 16, 2009)
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police.jpgTwo New York Officers were suspended recently when a videotape surfaced displaying them beating a handcuffed suspect. The video was shot by a witness looking out an apartment window in the Bronx on January 5th.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he decided to suspend the officers as soon as he viewed the video: “We simply are never going to tolerate something like that,” Kelly said. “We are going to take swift and firm action when we see activities of that nature.”

A federal statute known as Section 1983 is one of the main civil rights laws victims of police brutality and misconduct rely upon. This law was first passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was intended to protect African Americans from vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is now called Section 1983 because that is where it is located within the United States Code. Section 1983 makes it unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law.
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