Can You Trust the Police? Police Excessive Force and the Dallas D.A. List of Names
Much of the news this week revolves around aspects of the rioting in Baltimore, Maryland, which began on the afternoon of Freddie Gray’s funeral, a man who died while in police custody and whom many believe was another victim of police excessive force. The death of Freddie Gray comes not so long after the Ferguson riots which were in protest of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a local police officer. Disturbing stories, right?
Many people across the country and here in the Dallas area are wondering about what happened to Freddie Gray. Lots of people are concerned, worried, even afraid of an individual police officer’s ability to use force against someone anytime they decide to do so.
Perfectly understandable, particularly when the smartphone film of the South Carolina police officer shooting a man in the back and killing him is still fresh in many minds — and still getting lots of hits on YouTube. For more on what happened, read our earlier post, “Police Cameras: Things To Know Before Filming Texas Police In Action.”
Or check out the recent video of a U.S. Marshall grabbing a bystander’s phone as she tries to film the federal officers in action:
Police Excessive Force Videos
Police using excessive force on men and women in this country isn’t news — it isn’t really debatable at this point. Just surf YouTube to find all sorts of dashcam videos and smartphone captures of police officers doing bad things, sometimes fatal things, to citizens. I’ve been monitoring police excessive force videos here on the blog for years now (click on the categories “Corrupt Cops” or “Cop Watch” in the right sidebar). I’ve also begun sharing them on Google Plus (under the hashtag #policevideo).
Police Excessive Force in Dallas
In North Texas, the idea that a police officer may be dangerous and willing to exert excessive force, or even fatal force, on someone isn’t just water cooler chat. Here in Dallas, we all know that excessive force is a real and present danger in our community and has been a serious problem — a very serious problem with lots of controversy in the past couple of years.
See, “Dallas Police Excessive Force: 16 Officer Involved Shootings In 2012 – Over 1 Each Month And 50% Are Fatal.”
Things are done in the Dallas Police Department to combat the problem. The Dallas PD will fire an officer for excessive force: just consider the incident last fall, where video captured a Dallas police officer using excessive force in the arrest of a homeless man — the officer was fired and was also charged with official oppression (a Class A misdemeanor).
Here’s the November 2014 video of the Dallas officer using excessive force:
What Protects You Against Excessive Force by Police Officer?
The fact that the Dallas Police Department not only fired an officer but also arrested him after an incident of excessive force hopefully sends a message to local law enforcement that there are consequences to using excessive force on citizens here in Dallas.
However, when you are pulled over in a traffic stop by a police officer here in North Texas — or if your child is stopped by cops while on their way back to college or while walking home from a friend’s house — what are your protections against excessive force?
Well, in these scenarios it’s just you and the officer and the law. That’s it. That’s why bodycams and dashcams are so important because they bring a third-party witness to the scene in the form of a lens.
Until police officers are wearing body cams, it’s the law that is at work to keep citizens safe from excessive force. If that officer abides by that law, which he or she should know and understand, then the citizen is safe. If the officer doesn’t abide by that law, then he or she becomes a criminal themselves.
Excessive force is illegal.
Of course, in these situations it is only by challenging bad acts and seeking justice that excessive force cases can be addressed. Victims must file their own charges, seek their own claims, when a police officer crosses the line.
Fourth Amendment and Excessive Force
Victims of excessive force may have a civil rights case to file under the federal Civil Rights Act as a “section 1983 claim” where they argue that their constitutional rights were violated by the officer.
That’s because using excessive force by law enforcement is considered in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against “unreasonable seizures.”
The Fourth Amendment limits the ability of the police power in this country. It’s still used today: for example, just this month the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on police being able to use dogs in a routine traffic stop. In Rodriguez v. U.S., it was held that the police cannot hold someone pulled over in a traffic stop just to bide time to get a dog on the scene for drug sniffing the vehicle.
However, remember that the police did use the dog in this search and seizure case and that the challenge had to go all the way to the High Court in Washington before the police were told No.
Do You Trust The Police? List of Dallas Police Officers the Prosecutors Don’t Trust to Testify
Police know the Fourth Amendment and the limits on what they should and should not do regarding physical force and any citizen. The question is how to keep police officers from disregarding that law in the first place.
Filing an action after someone is hurt is seeking justice for a bad thing. The real issue is how to stop the bad thing from happening in the first place.
This is a national problem and it’s a Dallas problem. Do you trust the police? CAN you trust the police?
Before you answer, consider this — recently, the full list of names of Dallas Police Department officers that the prosecutors will NOT put on the witness stand because the Office of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office does not trust them to testify truthfully and accurately in court was published. Dallas DA Susan Hawk describes them as officers they will not “sponsor for testimony.”
Here’s the question: if the Dallas DA doesn’t trust these Dallas police officers on the witness stand, what does say about trusting these officers out on the streets?
You can read the list here:
DA's list of officers with infractions (obtained by Austin American-Statesman)
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