Missouri law enforcement must be held accountable for excessive force

Although it likely goes without saying, law enforcement officers in Missouri have a duty to protect the public from danger. Thankfully, in the vast majority of circumstances, Missouri police and other law enforcement agencies perform this duty admirably and with the utmost respect for the public's wellbeing.

Sadly, however, it is in those rare instances when an officer chooses to deviate from standard protocol that people can get hurt, such as when Missouri police use excessive force when arresting a suspect. In these situations, not only can the use of excessive force by one police officer give his or her entire department a bad name, but the wrongful act can also expose the department to possible legal liability for any injuries suffered.

Excessive force claims in Missouri

Federal courts in Missouri routinely maintain that the public's right to be free from the use of excessive force by police is clearly established by the Fourth Amendment. In particular, this right is rooted in the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of the person.

Accordingly, Missouri courts use a "reasonableness" standard to determine whether police force is, in fact, excessive. When making this determination, courts must take into account the totality of the circumstances, focusing on whether the police officer's actions were reasonable in light of the situation. Several factors may be considered when examining the reasonableness of police force during an arrest, including, but not limited to:

  • The severity of the crime at issue.
  • The extent of the suspect's injuries.
  • Whether police followed standard police procedure.
  • Whether the suspect is actively attempting to evade or resist arrest.
  • Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of others or the officer.

Keep in mind, however, that these are only a few of many factors that Missouri courts may look to when establishing the existence of excessive force during a police arrest.

In addition, it is important to note that other police officers on the scene may be held liable for failing to intervene when an arresting officer uses excessive force. Typically, Missouri courts can hold these other officers accountable if they were present at the arrest and had opportunity to prevent the use of excessive force, or, if the other officers were "instrumental" in helping the actual attacker to put the suspect in a vulnerable position.

Seek legal assistance

In many circumstances, claims of excessive force by police are coupled with criminal charges against the accused, which is why it is often best to seek the counsel of an attorney experienced in both civil rights law and criminal defense if you have been the victim of police brutality. A knowledgeable attorney can review the facts of your arrest and help ensure your constitutional rights are protected.