An Overview of Police Misconduct in Minnesota

Law enforcement officials and police officers have a duty to uphold the law and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens. The Constitution of the United States and the Civil Rights Act exist to ensure that every American has equal freedoms and rights. Unfortunately, some police officers go too far and infringe upon those rights. Police misconduct has been a hot topic of debate recently. For your own protection and that of others around you, understanding those rights is crucial.

When police take their authority too far and cause physical or psychological harm to suspects or citizens, they should be held accountable for their actions. In most situations, a court will assess the details of a situation to determine whether or not an officer’s actions were defensible at the time of the incident. Additionally, police officers must afford every suspect and citizen the same measure of respect and not profile anyone based on appearances.

Emotional Distress Caused by Police

Police officers work to keep the peace, and sometimes this means subduing and incarcerating criminals. However, the law doesn’t permit the police to break the laws they are meant to enforce. If they go too far or use extreme measures, they can cause severe distress to those involved. In some situations, a citizen who has been emotionally traumatized by police may be able to successfully sue for police misconduct. This typically only applies to cases in which:

  • A police officer causes undue emotional distress through some act of negligence.
  • A police officer causes any emotional injury through intentional or reckless actions.

For the claim to hold up in court, the plaintiff’s attorney must demonstrate to the court that the officer’s conduct was extreme, borne of intention or recklessness, and the actions in question caused severe emotional distress.

Excessive Force

In some situations, police officers must use force, including deadly force in extreme cases, to subdue dangerous or fleeing suspects. Police officers must exercise caution and use their training to protect themselves and the well-being of their fellow officers and bystanders. If a police officer goes too far while arresting a suspect or uses his or her firearm without justifiable provocation, he or she may be found guilty of excessive force. Typically, police officers should only fire their sidearm if there is an immediate mortal threat to their person, a fellow officer, or another citizen in the area.


In July of 2016, police officer Jeronimo Yanez gunned down an African-American man named Philando Castile during a traffic stop. Yanez pulled Castile over because he thought he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. During the stop, Castile informed Officer Yanez that he had a gun permit and had his firearm with him in the car. Castile reached for his ID, and Yanez shot him several times out of fear that he was reaching for his weapon. Castile’s girlfriend and her three-year-old daughter were in the car at the time.

This past November, Yanez was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter. The justification for this ruling is that the court found Yanez had enough reason to be cautious due to the presence of a firearm but overreacted. The prosecution would have pursued a murder charge had the evidence shown that Yanez willfully and intentionally shot Castile. The incident sparked intense public outrage, leading to violent protests in St. Paul. Many argue that Yanez racially profiled Castile, causing the officer’s overreaction.

This case is one sad example of a police officer reacting poorly to a situation, and it cost a man his life. When officers make snap judgments based on a suspect’s appearance, this is called profiling, a Civil Rights violation. If you’ve had any run-ins with law enforcement and believe your rights were violated, speak with an experienced legal team about your situation.