As the face and backbone of law enforcement, police in Philadelphia are given immense powers to carry out their duties and responsibilities. Police powers include the authority to arrest and search your person and your property after arrest. Where circumstances warrant, police even have the authority to use deadly force against you.
Following the orders of a police officer is something many of us learn from childhood and apply throughout the rest of our lives. That deference presumes that people in positions of power like police officers will use their immense powers appropriately. As has been documented over the years, however, abuse or misuse of police powers by some officers continues to be a problem that at times causes nationwide protests.
The abuse or misuse of police powers is caused by several factors, including poor training, bias, a proclivity toward violence, or inability to control anger under stressful or dangerous situations. Whatever the cause, the abuse or misuse of police powers often ends up in wrongful arrests and convictions, injuries, or even the loss of life.
As is often the case following such use of deadly force by police officers or other violence involving stops or arrests, police departments across the country routinely promise to conduct “thorough investigations” to determine exactly what happened and whether the officer involved was justified in using the level of force that he or she used.
Time and again, such investigations end up nowhere and, if they result in some discipline of the officer or bringing charges against them, the office often walks away with a slap on the wrist or an acquittal.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we believe you cannot trust internal police investigations to determine whether the police violated your constitutional rights. The “blue wall of silence” is a well-known and well-documented code among police that refers to the fact that police will protect each other from prosecution and accountability for their actions. Fortunately, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can help.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of police brutality, an experienced police brutality attorney in our Philadelphia office is able to help you to ensure that justice is done and police officers are held accountable for their actions.
It is important to note that not all police or law enforcement officers are bad people or violate the rights of others. Rather, we know a vast majority of those who risk their lives daily to protect us are hard-working public servants whose only desire, besides providing for their families, is to do what is right and as trained. Our view concerns the bad officers who, for one reason or another, engage in conduct that ends up violating the rights of the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect. When these officers engage in provable misconduct, it is important that they are held accountable.
People who go into law enforcement, and especially those who join the police force, often come from a line of other family members who have served in the same capacity. In many police departments, those who serve either become like family or something akin to a fraternity.
For this reason, if an officer is accused of police brutality, the natural tendency by their peers and superiors is not to hold the officer accountable; rather, the instinct is to maintain a façade that all is not as bad as is being projected in the media covering the incident.
Indeed, the affected department bosses find ways to rationalize the police brutality or to cover up and attempt to have the community forget and move on without anyone being held accountable.
This is precisely what happens in most cases, but in cases where the brutality is recorded and broadcast and shared widely, public outrage usually follows. When this happens, affected police departments are often forced to take some action, such as terminating the officer involved, or the pressure leads to the filing of criminal charges against the officer or officers involved.
However, even under these few circumstances where accountability is forced, police departments across the country still find it hard to be objective. In the rest of the cases that do not draw national attention—and these are the majority, police brutality is usually whitewashed by the so-called internal investigations.
Police brutality can take many forms, including violence, intimidation, wrongful arrests, and the unlawful use of force. Thankfully, under federal law, victims of police brutality do not need to sit back and await the results of an internal investigation but rather can go on the offensive and file a Section 1983 claim against the officer or department that violated their rights. Section 1983 allows people whose rights were violated by the government to seek compensation for their losses, including compensatory and punitive damages.
An attorney familiar with representing the victims of police violence will be able to review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a claim. Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer knows how the police operate and is committed to helping victims assert their rights and hold bad police and police departments accountable for their actions.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we understand the devastation and anxiety that often occurs after the police violate your or your loved one’s constitutional rights. If you are one of those so affected, we can help by first helping you to decide whether to participate in an official investigation of the matter and if the decision is to participate, we will guide you throughout the investigations. If the decision is not to participate, we can help you bring legal action to vindicate the victim's rights as well as your own rights. We can also help you during this difficult time to deal with media and publicity that invariably follows such tragedies. Request your consultation here or call 215-712-1212.