Correct public perception.

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are troubled by decreased trust and negative perceptions held in their communities based on police actions of “abuse of power.”  In certain cases, the North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation is brought in to review and identify the truth regarding police encounters that have caused considerable personal injury and death. The agency investigators are trained to remain unbiased and bring honest justice to a community, amid protests against police abuse claims of bias-based prejudice and “excessive force” behaviors.  Departments are increasing community-focused initiatives to include partner programs, undertaking department policy changes and increasing mandatory training for police to include de-escalation and bias-based profiling courses.

Excessive force.

The 1989 U.S. Supreme Court Case of Graham v. Connor is the supporting “go to” case law regarding excessive force options for police officers. Excessive force is a violation of civil rights, but a certain amount of force is necessary to keep communities safe requiring split second decisions by officers in the field with the possibility of life and death to themselves or someone else.  Recognizing the need for an ethical effective police presence in the community, the Graham ruling requires that an officer’s actions are “objectively reasonable” given the “totality of the circumstances.”  An officer must consider the “Graham Factors:”

  1. the severity of the crime at hand;
  2. immediate threat to officer, others or suspect based on criminal action;
  3. suspect is actively resisting arrest or fleeing the crime scene.

When an officer is suspected of acting beyond the scope of these guidelines and causing extreme personal injury or death to a suspected criminal, an internal investigation will be carried out and in certain cases, state oversight will be required.

Federal laws.

Federal laws address illegal willful actions undertaken while using the power vested in police by a governmental agency.  The phrase that defines this power is “under color of law.” It is a crime to deprive another person of their protected rights under United States Constitution (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242), and criminal and civil legal action can be initiated to remedy the injustice with the possibility of fines and/or prison time. An attorney with police brutality experience can explain detailed actions in such cases.

Legal counsel.

If you, or someone you love has been a victim of police brutality through excessive force, you should seek legal counsel at the Law Offices of Swanson & Klein to review the incident and examine legal options available, including filing a formal complaint to the police department itself.

Swanson Klein Law, PLLC

104 East Main Street

Durham, NC 27701

Telephone: 919-286-0595

Fax: 919-869-2057

Email: [email protected]



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