In some situations, the official penalties that are handed down against officers by their own departments are laughable. Most times, an internal affairs department will simply not sustain any allegations against an officer, or give them a minor penalty such as suspension without pay for a few days or weeks. Even though these internal affairs investigations are supposed to be neutral, the reality is that all of the people involved in the disciplinary process are co-workers with similar interests. This can be frustrating for victims, as beyond the act of making a police department aware of official misconduct, they have no say in the outcome of an investigation.

An incident in Columbus Ohio where an officer kicked a man in the head while he was laying down resulted in only a 24 hour suspension.

Columbus cop gets absurd suspension for attack on helpless victim

A video that was released on social media shows Columbus Police Officer Zachary Rosen handcuffing Demarko Anderson, who appears to be compliant and not resisting arrest. Anderson makes a number of verbal acknowledgements to Rosen that he is following orders while detained and laying face down on the ground. Moments later, Rosen runs into the view of the camera and kicks Anderson in the head as witnesses nearby started to scream. Rosen was initially taken off of patrol duty while the incident was investigated.

At the conclusion of the misconduct investigation, the Columbus Police Chief had recommended a mere 24 hour suspension for Rosen based on his actions, which was very lenient to say the least. The Director of Public Safety will also have input about the disciplinary measures taken, but in these cases the initial recommendation is usually followed.

What are the legal options for victims?

Unfortunately for victims, the decision to discipline an officer by internal affairs or to file criminal charges from a local prosecutor is totally out of their hands after an initial complaint is filed. As the previous incident shows, someone like a police chief or public safety official often has the final say in these matters, and they can decide independently. In this sense, a victim really has little to no control over whether criminal charges are brought or if an officer is fired from their job, as these decisions are made within the relevant government office. These avenues to control police action tend to be relatively useless for members of the general public in most cases, as officers tend to only disciplined for the most extreme forms of misconduct.

The only remedy that seems to give victims any kind of control over the disciplinary process is to file a civil lawsuit. This allows those hurt by the police to be paid for the injuries and holds them accountable in a public forum. A police brutality lawyer can utilize federal civil rights laws to allege that a person was mistreated by an officer. Victims may also receive large payments for the resulting injuries if they are badly hurt, or when there is a high level of misconduct that contributed to a person’s suffering.  Because the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is lower than in criminal cases, it is also more likely that a plaintiff can receive a judgment in a civil case rather than an officer being criminally convicted for their actions.

Get legal advice in Columbus

If you feel that the police need to be held accountable for their actions in Columbus or any other parts of Ohio, an attorney can speak with you. A lawyer who specializes in police brutality cases will give expert advice about how to proceed with a civil lawsuit, even if the department has decided not to punish the officer.