Though Black citizens are killed by police officers at disproportionate rates, not all encounters are fatal. In many cases, victims survive encounters, but their lives are forever changed.
Jacob Blake – a Black Wisconsin-resident who was shot in the back seven times and paralyzed for an indeterminate amount of time – is an example of this. He can no longer be the active father he once was to his children and is instead undergoing therapy to try and regain his ability to walk.
Blake is not alone.
While Black Americans experience police brutality at higher rates, they are not the only victims.
According to a study on police officers’ use of force by the U.S. Department of Justice, in Miami-Dade County injuries by police against suspects were not uncommon. Based on data from 882 reports, they found the following:
“The most common type of suspect injury was a bruise or abrasion (48 percent of those injured), followed by lacerations (24 percent), and gunshot injuries (4 percent). The chance of suspect injury was significant no matter what type of force was used by police,” the study found on page 12. “For example, officer use of fists entailed an 81 percent chance of suspect injury; use of a PR-24 baton, a 67 percent chance; and use of a handgun, a 48 percent chance.”
Often the physical trauma is just the beginning. The mental and emotional wounds of victims injured by police take much longer to heal. It’s why victims should know their rights and options for recourse.
You can’t litigate what you can’t prove. The first thing a victim who has been injured by police should do is document everything. Even if you believe there is the possibility that police may overstep their boundaries, injury is a possibility, take the necessary precautions.
“One of the most important things to do if you have an encounter with the police is to try your best to get someone to record it. Next, you should document your injuries and seek treatment. It is never easy to prove that an officer committed wrongdoing but by doing these things, it helps,” attorney Josh Jones says.
You should also do your best to gather witness statements from anyone that may have been present during the police interaction in which you were injured. It’s always better to have someone that can corroborate your story.
As history has shown, doing these things still doesn’t guarantee a victory, but they do make one more likely.
Police reform advocates are hard at work trying to get the policy changed, but the process is tedious and the battle uphill.
“Hopefully, in the upcoming years, new laws will pass that will make it more difficult for these rogue officers to hide behind their badges and to be prosecuted criminally and sued civilly,” Jones says.
Until that happens, be sure to do all you can on your part because it could end up being your word against theirs; and without substantial evidence, police officers are more likely to prevail.
If you’ve been injured during an encounter with police, give our offices a call at (305) 239-HURT (4878). We’d be happy to help you determine if you have a case and answer any questions you may have about your claim. Consultations are free.
All information and tips provided in this blog are meant for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client relationship.