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Harrowing history of excessive force in America with legal system that allows cops to get away with murder

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Harrowing history of excessive force in...

POLICE brutality has been an alarming issue across the United States for many years but the recent death of American George Floyd has highlighted how the US legal system is allowing cops to get away with murder.

After police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest that led to his death – it sparked worldwide protests and riots, as people joined to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

⚠Read our George Floyd protests live blog for the latest news & updates


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Derek Chauvin was arrested after kneeling on Geroge Floyd neck for nearly nine minutes – the shocking incident was caught on camera [/caption]

AP:Associated Press

The legal system currently has sparked outrage as it protects cops carrying out misconduct with many cases never going to court [/caption]

Eric Garner complained that he couldn’t breathe as he was subdued by cops, and died from compression of the neck in 2014

It raises the question as to what is considered reasonable force in arrest situations and why only now is more being done to protect citizens from those who are supposed to keep them safe.

‘I can’t breathe’ – the last words spoken by George Floyd before he was killed during arrest on a Minneapolis street, for allegedly using a counterfeit bill to pay for cigarettes.

The harrowing scene, caught on camera for the world to see, shows that Floyd did not resist his arrest and presented no threat to police officer Chauvin.

But this is not the first time these heartbreaking words have been spoken during a fatal arrest.

Back in 2014 Eric Garner told an NYPD cop that he couldn’t breathe after being placed in an unnecessary chokehold – a restraint method banned in New York since 1993.

His words speak from the grave six years later as George Floyd pleaded for his life, but is enough being done by law enforcement to control the powers handed down to its officers? or are cops being protected by a legal system that sways in their favour?  


On Monday the New York State Assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chockhold Act, a move most likely pushed forward by the recent arrest death that has shocked the world.

The bill would make it so that a police officer who injures or kills somebody through the use of ‘a chokehold or similar restraint’ can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Laws on excessive force differ from state to state but the fourth amendment offers protection to those who have been arrested for police questioning while walking along the street.

It makes clear that a police officer may not search or seize an individual or his or her property unless the officer has a valid search warrant, a valid arrest warrant or a belief rising to the level of ‘probable cause’ that an individual has committed a crime.

Excessive force refers to situations where government officials legally entitled to use force exceed the minimal amount of force necessary to diffuse an incident or to protect themselves or others from harm. 

George’s death has sparked a global movement as people join to fight racism and police brutality
AP:Associated Press

Four cops, Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao have all been arrested following the death of George Floyd [/caption]

The Mega Agency

Riots have spread across the globe following the death of George in the US[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

Violence broke out in the US and millions took to the street in Black Lives Matter protests [/caption]

The law recognises that officers should be able to use what is termed as ‘deadly force’ if they feel their life is genuinely in danger but otherwise force used should be necessary and proportional.

Some factors which deter whether the force was reasonable are the seriousness of the crime committed, if the suspect is resisting arrest and if that suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer and the public.

In New York for example the penal code states that the officer may only use deadly force to prevent an escape during certain felonies or if the perpetrator is carrying a firearm.

Circuit courts also hold ‘standby officers’ who have a realistic opportunity to prevent unreasonable force as liable, but it has not been resolved if an intervention should be a constitutional duty.

As part of the Civil rights act known as section 1983, If excessive force is carried out then the victim or their surviving family would be able to sue in court.

“The [police] badge has become a get-out-of-jail-free card in far too many instances,”

Editorial BoardNew York Times

In late February, a Minnesota state-led task force on policing released an extensive set of recommendations for how to prevent law enforcement from using deadly force on civilians and how best to respond when police do kill people.

There are 28 recommendations and 33 ‘action steps’ in the report, one being an independent investigative unit within the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate when officers use deadly force.

The report also asks for a review of state law that authorises when officers can use deadly force as well as providing body cameras state-wide should they contribute to public safety and community trust.

At the time, Department of Safety Commissioner John Harrington said : “The time to discuss deadly-force incidents is not when one occurs.”

Just three months later Floyd’s life was taken by the same police brutality law markers were looking to prevent.


Some would argue however that the American legal system heavily favours police officers in excessive or deadly force cases such as Floyd’s death.

A recent New York Times comment piece suggested that the US Supreme Court ‘had enabled a culture of [police] violence and abuse by eviscerating a vital civil right law to provide police officers [with] nearly limitless immunity…’

“The [police] badge has become a get-out-of jail-free card in far too many instances,” it added.

Police officers have qualified immunity while carrying out official duties meaning individuals are not usually allowed to sue police officers over injuries sustained in an arrest.

This means that negligence or carelessness would not be enough to bring forward a case, the victim must show that the officer has violated statutory or constitutional rights.

But what makes cases nearly impossible to win is the court’s requirement that any violation of rights be “clearly established” — meaning another court must have previously encountered a case with the same context and facts, and found there that the officer was not immune. 

The judge-made rules means that plaintiffs lose every time as the legal bar set to challenge police misconduct gets higher and higher by the Supreme Court.

The US Sun/Adam Gray/SWNS

Police officers are protected by qualified immunity meaning they can’t be sued for injuries made during an arrest [/caption]

The Mega Agency

Protesters in the Bronx organised descended into chaos when NYPD cops in riot gear blocked off the march[/caption]

major investigation by Reuters earlier this year found that “since 2005, the courts have shown an increasing tendency to grant immunity in excessive force cases — rulings that the district courts below them must follow.

Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder as well as initially being charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

However, because of the rarity of the case, prosecutors could face an uphill battle to see him charged with just 35 officers out 100 cases being convicted of homicide charges since 2005.

The decision to charge Chauvin with third-degree murder, and not a more serious crime, likely stems from the fact that it would be difficult for prosecutors to prove that Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd.

In Minnesota, the maximum sentence for someone convicted of third-degree murder is 25 years, plus a fine of up to $40,000.

George’s death follows that of 18-year-old Micheal Brown, who was shot by a white police officers in Missouri after he was believed to have stolen a pack of cigarettes from a local store.

Many were outraged, claiming that the officers had used unnecessary deadly force – no charges were ever bought against the officers involved.

Freddie Gray, also died in 2015 following his arrest after Baltimore police claim he ran unprovoked and was found to be carrying a blade.

A police officer was acquitted in relation to the death of 25-year-old, who died in hospital from spinal injuries a week after police took him into custody.

A state prosecutor said that Gray was illegally arrested, assaulted and falsely accused of carrying an illegal switchblade and in a video of the incident Freddie can be heard screaming repeatedly.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has also stated that it is not clear why Gray was stopped by the officers as there ‘is no law against running’.

Billy Murphy, a lawyer hired by the Gray family agreed that ‘running while black is not probable cause’ for arrest.

AP:Associated Press

No officers were ever charged following Eric Garner death but a new bill have no been passed in his honour [/caption]

Freddie Gray was just 18 when he was shot police in Baltimore
AP:Associated Press

Police officers take the knee alongside protesters in a sign of solidarity [/caption]



POLICE brutality has been an alarming issue across the United States for many years but the recent death of American George Floyd has highlighted how the US legal system is allowing cops to get away with murder. After police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest […]


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