In recent years, the widespread problem of police brutality in the United States has been getting more and more press coverage. In an age where almost everyone has a smartphone camera on them at all times, video evidence regularly surfaces which proves what many Americans have been speaking out against for decades.
While most police officers are trustworthy civil servants, there are far too many that abuse their power by making wrongful arrests, using excessive force, and mistreating suspects they’ve detained in other ways. Sometimes these encounters even become fatal.
Legal Options For Victims Of Police Brutality
As this national crisis has gained more exposure, some police officers have faced criminal charges for fatal police brutality incidents. But far too often, the criminal court system fails families that have been affected by police brutality. All it takes is one juror with a bias towards law enforcement for a hung jury to happen.
The civil court system can provide recourse for families in this tragic situation. Unlike criminal courts, which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant in a civil case can be found guilty based on a “preponderance of the evidence” – meaning that the evidence suggests it’s more likely than not that the defendant is responsible.
In many cases, both sides will reach a settlement out of court.
New York City Paid Out $228.5 Million In 2016 Police Misconduct Cases
In the fiscal year 2016, New York City spent $228.5 million in settlements and court judgments for police misconduct lawsuits.This figure accounts for over a third of all the money the city paid out for lawsuits that year.
Between 2009 and 2014, there were a total of 12,000 of these cases, resulting in over $428 million in payouts over that five-year period.
How Police Brutality Lawsuits Help Victims
When the police abuse their power, it’s important for victims to speak out and exercise their legal rights. As more and more people take these officers to court and demand accountability, the NYPD will be forced to consider how they can enact measures for police reform. Over time, this can ensure that countless others are spared the traumatic experience of police brutality and misconduct.
A look at the trends in stop-and-frisk policies helps illustrate this point. This policy allows NYPD officers to randomly stop and search people for contraband. Over the years, numerous civil liberties groups and victims rights advocates have protested against this policy. Statistically, nearly 90% of stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent of any crime. This tactic is also statistically racist, as over 80% of those stopped-and-frisked are black or Latino.
As police brutality settlement payouts have increased in recent years, the frequency of stop-and-frisk has dramatically dropped. These incidents peaked in 2011, when New Yorkers were stopped-and-frisked 685,724 times. In 2016, this number had dropped to 12,404. In the first quarter of 2017, there were a total of 2.862 incidents.
While stop-and-frisk is a serious problem that still needs to be eradicated, the downward trend is an encouraging sign. If victims continue to seek accountability through police misconduct lawsuits, perhaps this and other police tactics that encourage misconduct can be eliminated.
Taking Legal Action
If you’ve suffered physical, emotional, or mental trauma because of police brutality or misconduct, the personal injury lawyers at Lipsig Queens want to help you stand up for your rights and seek the financial support you need for damages related to your injury. To find out more about your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation.