Civil rights violations, police brutality, unlawful shootings, and violence suffered in police custody have been high in the public consciousness after a spate of tragic cases.
In many scenarios, civil rights attorneys and investigators find that the perpetrators had long demonstrated disregard for federal civil rights laws, which have intensified and resulted in the death of a civilian.
While these cases are deplorable, it remains important to reiterate that civil rights transgressions cover a wide array of offenses, and seemingly ‘minor’ violations are federal crimes that, if not pursued to the full extent of the law, will continue unchecked and likely escalate.
Illustrating the Importance of Civil Rights Law
Although most law enforcement professionals operate to the letter of the law and work diligently to protect the rights of every US citizen, it is crucial that where a culture of discrimination, violence, abuse of power, or misogyny remains, it is addressed rapidly and decisively.
The civil rights violation statute of limitations varies between states. Still, in many cases, a civil rights breach can be investigated and prosecuted several months or even years after an incident, depending on the case’s specific details.
Some of the most high-profile civil rights cases in recent years include the death of George Floyd, where the arresting officers who caused his death and ignored signs of medical distress were convicted of civil rights violations in Minnesota–alongside a murder conviction.
Another case involved Tyre Nichols, a twenty-nine-year-old who died after being beaten by police in Memphis following a traffic stop. The officers were charged with murder in March and have been decertified as law enforcement officers due to conduct violations.
Victims of civil rights violations of every nature have the right to take action. Pursuing civil rights breaches may prevent a perpetrator from continuing to abuse a position of power.
Police Actions That Constitute a Breach of Civil Rights
While we often associate police civil rights violations with extreme scenarios, multiple kinds of offenses are a fundamental infringement of your civil rights, including the following:
- Physical force: Unreasonable force causing physical injuries or even death during arrest, sexual assault, verbal and physical harassment, and negligent or unlawful shootings
- Discrimination: Malicious prosecutions without a suitable base of evidence, bias in how the police engage with a civilian, or targeting a person due to discrimination
- Unlawful detention: Breaching a person’s rights while they are in custody or inside a police facility, or making a false arrest, where an officer arrests a person without sufficient evidence or judicial authorization
- Failure to intervene: The failure to act when there is a crime, rights violation, or act of discrimination that a police officer witnesses
Other police civil rights cases involve abuse of power, abuse within a prison setting, evidence tampering or coercion of witnesses, and police dog attacks that are unwarranted, unlawful, or unnecessary.
Why Are Police Civil Rights Violations Increasing?
The number of fatal interactions with police may give the impression that civil rights transgressions are on the rise as more and more people come forward with testimonies and initiate lawsuits when a corrupt officer is charged with another crime or dismissed from the force.
One of the primary reasons for this spike in cases is the use of body-worn cameras, dash cams in police vehicles, and video streaming via social media, where witnesses are often compelled to begin recording to keep a record of events.
Another factor is public education, where individuals are aware of their rights and are empowered to speak up and consult an experienced civil rights attorney if they have been detained, treated, abused, or arrested unlawfully.
What Is the Difference Between Police Brutality and Excessive Force?
South Carolina law does not have a specific charge related to police brutality but allows prosecutors and attorneys to introduce charges for rights violations due to police misconduct or using unapproved techniques when interacting with a citizen.
Some examples include:
- Using unapproved holds to restrain a person
- Deploying unnecessary force to remove witnesses
- Deadly force, resulting in death
Law enforcement officers can be liable for injuries they have caused if they do not have the constitutional right to use a particular type of restraint or physical force, do not follow the appropriate protocols and training requirements, or are negligent. Strom Law’s specialist civil rights attorneys can provide further guidance if you believe you have been the victim of a civil rights violation by the police and would like to find the best way to achieve justice.