Justine Damond and Police Misconduct
Police officers have dangerous but essential jobs, and due to their positions of authority, they carry a higher duty to act with reasonable care. Police officers often encounter dangerous situations and risk their lives on a regular basis, but this does not give them the right to act with impunity and harm the people they should be protecting and serving.
In July 2017, an Australian national living in Minneapolis, by the name of Justine Damond, died after Police Officer Mohamed Noor shot her through the driver’s side door of his police cruiser. Justine had called the police to report a possible assault near her home, and the responding officers, including Noor, did not turn on their body cameras when they arrived on the scene. The officers claim a loud noise startled them, but this does not explain why the woman, who was waiting for the police officers’ assistance, was killed by multiple gunshots at point-blank range from inside the police car by one of the responding officers.
The investigation continues, and the Minneapolis Police Department has announced a new body camera policy requiring all officers to turn on their devices when responding to any call or when engaging in any “self-initiated activity.” This story is the latest in a string of recent police misconduct cases, and it’s crucial to understand the legal impact of police misconduct.
Legal Options for Handling Police Misconduct
When a person causes injuries or damages to another person, the injured party can seek restitution for their losses through a personal injury lawsuit. When one person causes the death of another through negligence, the victim’s family can sometimes secure compensation through a wrongful death claim. Both of these types of claims hinge on the concept of negligence.
In the legal sense, negligence describes a person’s violation of their duty to act with reasonable care and their culpability for the results. When fighting police misconduct, the concept of “qualified immunity” may come into play, making it difficult for survivors and injured victims to secure compensation for their losses.
Under qualified immunity, some police officers may be immune from liability if they acted in accordance with their training and acceptable policing standards. If a police officer shoots and kills a person, as long as there was no willful violation of the law and the officer properly used the police department’s techniques for handling the situation, the officer will likely qualify as immune from liability in some jurisdictions.
If the investigation reports that the officer’s conduct was excessive considering the circumstances, the officer may be in violation of the victim’s Fourth Amendment rights. Unlawful use of excessive force is a “seizure” in this sense, as is denial of medical care. Municipalities may face liability for deaths caused by inadequate training or improper techniques used by their officers.
Fighting Police Brutality
Considering a personal injury lawsuit against a police department may feel daunting, but it’s crucial for injured victims and the surviving loved ones of unjustly slain citizens, to know their options for legal recourse. Attorneys can help people in these situations build their cases and meet the stringent filing deadlines for bringing civil actions against government agencies. In some cases, especially those involving clear violations of the constitutional rights of citizens, police brutality cases may wind up in Federal court.