Justice Department Finds Use of Excessive Force

April 22, 2014

Police stopThe U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division released a report on April 10th criticizing the Albuquerque Police Department for engaging in routine excessive force in violation of constitutional rights. The DOJ found a “pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law” 2014 WL 1389353. The Department pointed to inadequate oversight, investigation of incidents, and training of officers as the cause of the problems. The Justice Department is requesting revisions to department policies and procedures, as well as changes in training and hiring practices.

Excessive force complaints, verdicts and settlements can be costly for municipalities. A Star Tribune article from August of last year noted that the city of Minneapolis paid out approximately $14 million in police misconduct cases from 2006 to 2012. What sort of settlement and verdict numbers can we find on Westlaw for excessive force? I ran the following query in Minnesota verdicts and settlement summaries:

ADV: “EXCESSIVE FORCE”

There are just over 100 results. Even without diving into individual results, we can get an idea of verdict amounts by taking a look at the filters on the left side of the screen. The filters provide a list of award ranges and number of results for each range. 53 of the verdicts and settlements show a defendant’s verdict of $0. Most awards are coming in under $50,000, but we do see a few hefty numbers, with 2 results each in the $500,000-$999,999 range and $1 million to $1.9 million range, and 1 from the $2 million to $4.9 million range.

Excessive Force legal research

Additional Research References for Excessive Force:

Arguably one of the most publicized and well known incidents of excessive force was the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles law enforcement, leading to the L.A. riots in 1992. You can see the Verdict Summary of Kings subsequent civil rights case against the City of Los Angeles at 1994 WL 847571. There is a link to the docket from the verdict as well.

The on-point ALR article (at approximately 455 pages in length) provides a comprehensive overview of the topic, including links to an abundance of case law broken down by jurisdiction. See When does police officer’s use of force during arrest become so excessive as to constitute violation of constitutional rights, imposing liability under Federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C.A. § 1983), 60 A.L.R. Fed. 204