It has now been over 50 years since the death of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many say that civil rights have not improved much since then. Police misconduct in the form of brutality to citizens and non-compliance with laws and regulations is on an upward trend in many communities around the United States.
Police brutality uses force that is excessive or unlawful in the situation at hand. For example:
- Using a restraining chokehold that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to breathe
- Shooting a taser that results in injury or death
- Beating an individual with an object, such as a baton
- Assaulting or raping an individual
- Using water hoses on people in freezing weather
An Important Cause
Although many victims feel too intimidated and threatened to come forward with their stories of mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement, it is essential to do so. This is because one of the leading ways to stem the tide of police misconduct is to prosecute it. There are two approaches to bring a suit to police misconduct, either criminal or civil charges.
Examples of acts that can lead to criminal charges against law enforcement include:
- Sexual assault
Examples of violations that can lead to civil charges include:
- Injuries stemming from excessive force
- Interfering with a person’s right to due process
- False arrest
- Verbal abuse and racial profiling
Rights Under the Law
Civil rights are protected under some high profile laws, including:
- The Federal Civil Rights Act – allows the right to sue those who violate others’ civil rights
- The Fourth Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) – asserts personal freedom and limits unreasonable search and seizure
- The Fourteenth Amendment – mandates all citizens’ equal protection under the law
Reporting charges against a perpetrator that is part of a powerful institution is frightening but necessary. One of the most significant civil rights challenges of our day is to reclaim justice from the very institutions that exist to protect all citizens.