When Police Misconduct Leads to Wrongful Death

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Not everyone is cut out to be a police officer. The job can involve long hours, lots of stress, and often puts officers in life-threatening situations. However, sometimes it’s not just the stress and danger to law enforcement officials that’s the problem – it’s the behavior of the officers themselves.


Police officers are in a position of power and are armed while on duty. They’re not supposed to use their weapons unless lives are in danger, but there have been many cases reported of officers who have bullied or injured people who have posed no threat. Some of the most recent data available, from the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project in 2010, shows that there were 6,613 reports of police misconduct and 6,286 alleged victims in just one year. Almost a quarter of those cases involved excessive force, which includes cases where police officers shot someone who didn’t pose a threat.


Family Mourns After Policeman Kills Their Unarmed Son


One of the most recent stories of police misconduct involves an officer in Charlotte, North Carolina shooting and killing Jonathon Ferrell, a 24-year-old former Florida A&M football player who was unarmed. According to Ferrell’s family, the young man had just dropped off a coworker around 2am when he veered off the road and had to kick out his rear window to escape the car.


Ferrell walked to the nearest house seeking help, but the woman on whose door he knocked believed he was trying to break in and called the police. According to police officers at the scene, Ferrell ran at them and one of the officers, Randall Kerrick, shot him 10 times. However, suspicion clouds the two officers’ accounts because Ferrell’s autopsy suggests that he was already on his knees or the ground when Kerrick fired most of his shots. It seems unlikely that Ferrell posed any real threat, and Kerrick is being charged with excessive force and voluntary manslaughter. Ferrell’s family is also suing Kerrick and the police department for wrongful death in the hopes of receiving both monetary compensation and gaining access to answers from the police officers’ dash-cam footage.


Police Need to Be Held Accountable for Excessive Force


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The story of Jonathon Ferrell’s death is tragic in its own right, and what makes it even worse is that it’s not an isolated incident. Police misconduct and brutality is reported all over the country every year, and according to a study summarized by the organization Stop Police Brutality, two of the areas with the highest misconduct rates are in Florida (Jacksonville, with 1.3% of their officers being charged with misconduct, and Palm Beach County, with 3.52%). While these rates show that the vast majority of police officers are able to handle the responsibilities of their jobs, the idea that almost four out of every 100 officers will wrongfully injure or even kill someone is unacceptable.


Whenever someone is in a position of power, they need to be held to a high level of accountability for their actions. Those police officers who are caught abusing their power are generally charged with a criminal offense, but it’s highly likely that police misconduct is underreported and that a number of officers get away with improper behavior every year. Our country needs to make an example of officers who use excessive force in order to discourage it from continuing. If someone you love has been wrongfully killed or injured by a police officer, contact a personal injury attorney who can help you review the case and discuss your options.


About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his 22-year career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.

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