Two Chicago police officers are under investigation after allegedly beating a teenaged boy whom they had arrested in the past. Two others face allegations that they failed to intervene or stop the unjustified use of force. The incident is being investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Police say that they only went after the boy after he had struck their vehicle with a stolen vehicle in his possession and pointed a gun at the officers.
One of the officers is alleged to have struck the teenager in the face and head, while another is alleged to have pressed his face into the ground and into a wire fence. The other officer is accused of punching the teenager without justification. A third officer is accused of failing to intervene and a fourth is accused of turning off his body camera. The police are also accused of conducting an improper vehicle pursuit, among other procedural issues. None of the officers have been charged with disciplinary violations.
Analyzing the Situation
So, let’s assume that the police are correct and that the suspect attempted to strike their car with his stolen vehicle and then pointed a gun at them. Would this justify the use of force described in the incident?
Essentially, this is a situation in which the police are administering their own justice by using physical force against an uncooperative suspect who imperiled their lives. It is a tricky situation because police are used to doing this; it is almost impossible to get a conviction of an officer for such conduct, but increased awareness over police brutality has created a minefield for police officers who do not want to operate by the book. While it is unclear if the Civilian Office of Police Accountability will recommend charges be pursued against the officers, it is also clear that the department is backing the officers’ response.
Nonetheless, what the officers did was illegal. Let’s say that this teenager was pointing a gun at the officers. At some point, they neutralized that threat to the extent that they had the teenager under control enough to force his head into the cement and punch him while he was on the ground. Since the threat was no longer immediate, the law does not recognize the officers’ right to defend themselves in that instance. The same laws that apply to us also apply to police. They are just enforced more sporadically. In this case, the police officers would be guilty of battery.
Since the threat posed by the teenager had been neutralized, any use of force that did not involve removing the teenager from the general public to the police car would have been automatically unjustified. The use of force is permissible only in cases in which there is a direct and immediate threat.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing serious criminal charges in Chicago, you will need a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate your way through the criminal justice system. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.