Defining “Excessive Force”

police excessive forceTed Hamilton (HLS 3L) published a Boston Globe article this week on “objective reasonableness.”  Here’s the introduction:

The video is no less horrifying for being familiar: a young black man surrounded by about 20 police officers, nearly all of them white, being beaten while offering no resistance. Tyree Carroll had been biking to his grandmother’s home in northwest Philadelphia late one April night when officers stopped him on suspicion of narcotics possession. What happened appears to be a textbook case of police brutality, at least according to the cellphone video of the incident released this month: a chokehold, repeated blows to the face and body, and hurled epithets. A bruised Carroll, the Philadelphia Police Department later said in a statement, was “transported to the hospital after intentionally striking his own head against the protective shield located in the police vehicle.”

The department promised an internal investigation, but has already labeled the use of force justified. The local district attorney, while bringing charges against Carroll for drug possession and assault, has deferred to the department’s assessment. That response underscores the chasm between how the public and the government view such incidents of violence.

Since Michael Brown was killed by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., last summer igniting the Black Lives Matter protests, a rising chorus of voices across the country has decried this contradiction — not just police violence, but also the continuing inability of the courts to curb it. Exacerbated by the growing use of military tactics and technology and defined by racial disparities, the term “excessive force” has become — for many— an expression of profound unfairness.

But what does excessive force mean? And who gets to define it?

Ted answers, and explains the importance of, those answers here.

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