Police Excessive Force Cases in Mississippi
While police officers have long been looked up to as symbols of trust, authority and order in our society, in some unfortunate cases that trust is misplaced. When the confidence and expectations citizens place in police officers is violated, the resulting injuries can leave both physical and emotional scars. Allegations of the use of excessive force by police officers continues to dominate the headlines more than two decades after the 1992 Los Angeles riots brought this issue to the attention of the public.
The July 2014 death of Eric Garner sparked outrage, and a month later, in Ferguson, MO, the fatal shooting of teen Michael Brown by an officer ignited protests. In April 2014, Walter Scott was shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, and the same month, Freddie Gray died while in police custody. The list grows each month as more incidents of the use of excessive force by police officers come to light. The Department of Justice has investigated one police department after another—in April 2014, the agency found the Albuquerque, NM police department routinely “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
The state of Mississippi is no exception, and, in fact, according to one body of research, the state of Mississippi rates third across the nation for highest reported number of misconduct incidents per 100,000 police officers. When you compare Mississippi’s 1735.28 police officer misconduct incidents per 100,000 officers, to the numbers in Kansas (the lowest) of 295.81 incidents of misconduct per 100,000 officers, it seems reasonable to be concerned.
Excessive Use of Force by City of Horn Lake Officer
A Northern District Federal Judge recently granted summary judgment for the plaintiff in a case of excessive use of force by a police officer with the City of Horn Lake. According to the complaint in this case, (Cooper v. Brown and City of Horn Lake), Officer Lynn Brown pulled Jacob Cooper over for suspected DUI. After exiting his car, Cooper fled, however didn’t go very far, sitting down by an AC unit next to a nearby house.
Brown located Cooper, and, without warning, ordered his K9 dog, Sunny, to attack. It must be noted that at this point Brown was already aware Cooper had no pending felony or violent offense charges, and was not armed. The dog attacked Cooper as Officer Brown handcuffed him. Photos of Cooper showed significant injuries, yet Officer Brown’s spin on the situation was that Cooper should have done a better job of saying “I give up,” as the dog chewed on his leg. The judge in the case noted that Officer Brown did not appear reluctant to resort to force, rather seemed reluctant to terminate the use of force, even after it was obviously no longer necessary.
If local stories like this make you wonder just how concerned you should be about the use of excessive force by police officers, consider the following facts:
- The Justice Department found that in 2008, among all of those who had contact with a police officer, about 1.4 percent either had excessive force used against them or were threatened with excessive force.
- In a Desoto County excessive force case in 2011, a jury returned a $250,000 verdict in favor of the plaintiff who claimed Sheriff’s Department personnel beat him, causing extensive injuries, including an orbital eye socket fracture. The Sheriff’s Department claimed the plaintiff “tripped over his own feet.”
- A Bureau of Justice survey of inmates in local jails concluded that while 1.7 percent of all contacts resulted in excessive use of force by police, a full 20 percent of actual arrests involved excessive use of force.
- A Criminal Justice Policy Review study in 2012 concluded that a relatively small proportion of police officers are responsible for a large proportion of excessive force incidents.
- A ProPublica report in October 2014, found that young, black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts.
Would Body Cameras Change the Face of Excessive Force Claims?
The mandatory wearing of body cameras by the police has been widely suggested in order to increase transparency in the interactions between police officers and the public. In 2015, it appeared that the state of Mississippi might actually be leading the charge to have every law enforcement officer in the state wearing a body camera, however Southaven Deputy Chief Steve Pirtle cited problems with “the logistics and the legalities.”
Pirtle claimed to agree with body cameras in principle, however believed there were just too many unanswered questions. Although eighty percent of the money to pay for the cameras would have come from the federal government, both Southaven Police and the Desoto County Sheriff’s Office claimed their budgets couldn’t bear the remaining 20 percent of the cost.
Where to Turn If You’ve Been the Victim of Excessive Force by Police in Mississippi
If you have been the victim of excessive use of force by local Mississippi municipalities such as the Southaven Police Department, the Olive Branch Police Department, the Horn Lake Police Department, the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department or the Desoto County Jail, you may be shaken up and unsure of what to do.
You are entitled to protections under Mississippi laws, federal laws and the United States Constitution such as protection from unlawful and excessive force by law enforcement. When your rights have been clearly violated, there is legal recourse available. Stroud, Flechas & Dalton has a long history of helping those who have suffered from an officer’s use of excessive force as well as:
- Jail inmate death;
- Unlawful arrest and detention;
- Coerced confessions;
- Malicious prosecution;
- Unlawful search and seizure;
- Abuse of TASER use by police, and
- Inadequate policies and procedures in jail facilities related to suicide and excessive use of force.
We believe strongly that you should not have to suffer such violations in silence. Call Stroud, Flechas & Dalton today at (662) 536-5656, and get the relief and assistance you are entitled to.