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What exactly counts as police brutality?

Even if you hear about police brutality frequently, you may be unclear on what that term actually means. It is an important legal term to know if a police officer ever mistreats you. If you are a victim of police brutality during a stop, arrest or detention, you may be able to bring legal charges against the officer and get your case dismissed. 

But before you start accusing a law enforcement official of excessive force, it is vital to have an idea of what those words entail. Here is an overview of what society tends to consider as police brutality. 

Protections in the U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution provides everyone the right to be free from brutality and excessive force. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizures, while the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. 

The spectrum of force

There are multiple methods police use to coerce or threaten individuals they are arresting or stopping, including the following:

  • The physical presence of law enforcement officials
  • Verbal statements and nonthreatening orders
  • The use of bodily force such as holding, grabbing, punching or kicking
  • The use of weapons such as chemical sprays, batons and police dogs
  • The use of lethal weaponry

This is a spectrum on the use of force. The exact level of force that an officer uses in a situation must be reasonable in proportion to the threat the individual poses. Police officers must only escalate their force in response to a threatening individual. 

Unnecessary force

The police must comply with the U.S. Constitution. In order for the force to be considered reasonable, police officers must cease force when a suspect is no longer a threat. For example, a police officer should not continue to use a baton or punch an individual detained in handcuffs. 

If you experience police brutality, you may be able to pursue legal action.

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