There is a consensus throughout our communities that there are times when the use of force is absolutely necessary for police officers to keep themselves and other people safe. There are countless times when a police officer has used their taser, baton, or gun to keep a person from hurting them or another. In most of those instances, the officers executed proper use of force because there was an undeniable reason for them to use force and it that can be proved in a court of law.
However, there are times when a police officer uses an excessive amount of force to restrain a person or place that person in custody. In these instances, the person’s Fourth Amendment right has been violated and the police officer could potentially face a civil suit.
In the last few years, New Mexico has become a hotbed for lawsuits against police officers and with good cause. A few of the examples that New Mexico has seen include:
A traffic stop spiraled out of control when a mother of five began a dangerous game of cat and mouse that ended when a police officers fired three times into the van that was carrying five children. While the woman was caught driving 71 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, the fact that the officer chose to use his weapon and fire at the vehicle, especially with five children inside of the van, was a definite case of excessive use of force. Many things went wrong with this traffic stop, but with the culmination of the woman’s reckless and erratic driving and the officer using his gun, it could have had a horrific outcome. Lethal force was not necessary for that type of traffic violation.
Earlier this year in February, a couple was awarded 1.6 million dollars in a law suit filed against the Las Cruces police department in what was called an “unreasonably excessive use of force” and a violation of the couple’s Fourth Amendment rights. During this arrest, Jillian Beck was engaged in a dispute with her neighbor which caused her to call the police. The police came, issued a warning to both parties, and left. Soon after, the police were summoned again when Mrs. Beck left a threatening note on her neighbor’s door. While the police were speaking to her, Mrs. Beck turned and walked away from Officer Isaiah Baker who in turn twisted her arm behind her back, fractured her arm, threw her to the ground, broke her nose and bruised her face. When her husband attempted to intervene, he was also arrested. Mr. Andrew Beck was charged with resisting, evading, and obstructing an officer. Mrs. Jillian Beck was arrested and charged with battery on a peace officer, resisting, evading and obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct. Mr. Beck’s charges were dropped and four of the five charges Mrs. Beck were charged with were also dropped.
Always keep in mind that police officers are just people. They are people, that carry badges and weapons and are meant to uphold the law. It is important to remain calm and respectful when speaking to an officer. This will help keep you and those around you safe.