Police brutality continues to afflict suspects across the United States. In many cases, instances of police brutality occur when an overzealous police officer uses excessive force on an individual whom the officer is arresting. When that happens, the arrestee may suffer a serious injury or, in the most serious police brutality cases, even death. Some of those people did not even commit a crime.

If you or someone you love is a victim of police brutality, you may file a claim or lawsuit against the police officer. Also, in some instances, you may bring a claim against the entity that employs the police officer, including the police department or the municipality where the police department is located. To make this type of claim, however, you must satisfy certain requirements.

The experienced legal team of Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at The Zeiger Firm regularly handles federal cases that involve municipal liability for failing to properly train and/or supervise police officers whom they employ. Please call us today to learn more about how we can help you take legal action in your police brutality case. Our firm handles federal cases that arise in the following counties that comprise the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the federal court system: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.

Duty of Municipalities to Properly Train and Supervise Police Officers

Municipalities, including cities, states, counties, and townships across the country, have a duty to properly train and supervise the police officers whom they employ. Specifically, they must properly train their officers to recognize when and where they should use deadly force—and also when they should refrain from using deadly force.

Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals are protected against unreasonable and overly intrusive searches and seizures by police officers and other government actors. When making an arrest, police officers are allowed to use force against the individual whom they are arresting. However, the amount of force that they use must be reasonable under the circumstances and proportionate to any force that is being used against them by the arrestee. When police officers use a disproportionate amount of force, serious issues and problems arise.

When a victim of police brutality can prove that a police officer used an unreasonable amount of force against him or her during the course of an arrest, the victim may file a claim against the police officer who made the arrest. In some circumstances, the claim can also be directed at the municipality that employs the police officer.

Case Law: Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York

The United States Supreme Court case of Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), addresses the issue of bringing a claim directly against a municipality. This case also lays out the exact circumstances when a civil claim against a municipality can be filed.

When it ruled on this case, the Supreme Court reached several holdings that included the following:

  • Local governments, such as municipalities, are “persons” under the law. Therefore, these municipalities can be sued pursuant to Section 1983 of the United States Code, which is a federal statute.
  • Whenever an individual makes a claim directly against a municipality, such as in a police brutality case, the claim must relate to an ordinance, policy statement, decision, or regulation officially adopted by the municipality’s officers.
  • An individual may not make a claim against a municipality based upon respondeat superior—also called vicarious liability or agency. In other words, a victim of police brutality cannot make a claim directly against a municipality simply because the police officer is an employee/agent of the municipality. Rather, the claim against the municipality must relate to a failure to properly train or supervise officers who are employed by the municipality, in accordance with an internal policy, decision, or directive.

An experienced federal civil rights lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine if you might be eligible to assert a claim against the municipality that employs the arresting police officer. If so, your lawyer can assist you with filing your claim or lawsuit as soon as possible.

What Happens When a Victim of Police Brutality Makes a Claim Against a Municipality?

Police brutality claims raised by a victim against a police officer and/or a municipality are civil claims. The primary end goal for filing a claim or lawsuit against a municipality is to recover monetary compensation for everything that you experienced as a result of the police brutality incident.

Instances of police brutality can result in serious injuries, both physical and psychological in nature. In addition to suffering a physical injury, the victim of police brutality may experience mental anguish, extreme emotional distress, and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of these damages are legally compensable.

If you assert a claim for damages against a municipality that stems from an incident of police brutality, you may recover compensation for all related medical treatment. Also, if you were forced to miss time from work because of your injuries, you may recover your lost earnings. Finally, you may recover compensation for all of the pain, suffering, and emotional distress that you experienced as a result of your traumatizing incident. Punitive damages may be available when the arresting officer and/or the municipality acted in a particularly egregious, reckless, or malicious manner.

Call a Federal Civil Rights Lawyer About Your Legal Matter Today

If you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, the knowledgeable team of federal civil rights attorneys at The Zeiger Firm can help you pursue a claim for damages against a municipality that has failed to properly train and/or supervise its police officers. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a federal civil rights attorney, call us at 215-546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.