There’s been a lot of discussion around police aggression and use of force in the national news recently. New York has recently taken steps to strengthen the state stance against the use of excessive force as a result.
In fact, the Second Circuit Court recently reaffirmed a judgment that has made “qualified immunity” is not an admissible defense against charges of excessive violence.
The Court’s decision reinstated the original verdict against an NYPD officer who used a taser on a man who was cooperating with law enforcement. This is philosophically the definition of excessive force.
The Court’s acknowledgment of the unnecessary use of force, combined with continuing protests against police violence, has encouraged lawmakers in New York to take a look at the state’s laws surrounding force.
Justified vs. Excessive Physical Force Among NY Police
Law enforcement officials are granted permission to use a certain amount of force to carry out their duties. However, there’s a difference between a reasonable, justifiable amount of force and force that’s considered “excessive.”
Force is considered excessive when it exceeds “what a police officer reasonably believes is necessary.”
For example, the act of a police officer using a Taser on a person who is attempting to harm someone else may not be considered excessive.
On the other hand, the Second Circuit Court has found that using a Taser on someone who has submitted to an arrest and is cooperating with law enforcement is excessive. A police officer should not think that using a Taser in the second scenario is reasonably necessary.
However, whether or not an officer reasonably believed the force was necessary is determined at trial. This means that different courts and different juries may have different ideas of what’s considered reasonable.
The difference from one jury to the next is why cases like this Taser case are so important to set precedent.
New York’s New Bill
Historically, many cases of excessive force necessarily relied on witness testimony. If an incident of police violence didn’t have any witnesses, then the case devolved into the victim’s word against the officer’s. This was not an environment that offered much justice.
Increased Penalties for Using Excessive Force
To fight this, the New York Assembly is working to pass a bill increasing penalties for police officers who abuse their authority.
This bill would cut off the retirement and other benefits for any officer who is fired, who retires, or who resigns during an investigation about “serious misconduct” or “malfeasance.” This includes excessive force accusations.
Holding Law Enforcement Accountable
That’s not all that New York is doing, either. Governor Cuomo has signed into law new legislation designed to hold officers directly accountable.
This bill includes the requirement that all police officers wear body cameras that must be turned on for all instances of interaction with the public.
Reporting Crimes of Excessive Force
It also establishes the Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office, an independent department that will handle misconduct complaints around the state.
Previously, people who had complaints about an officer’s behavior had to report it to the officer’s department. Many of these cases never then saw a resolution.
All of the new legislation is important for keeping law enforcement fair, safe, and effective in the state of New York. They will help keep police and law enforcement officials accountable for their actions.
More importantly, they give the public a clear and effective means of reporting police misconduct. Anyone who believes they have been mistreated by the police can now feel more comfortable making their complaints known without fear.