nick colling - MSM&C

Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Practice Areas: Insurance Bad Faith, Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury

Law enforcement officers are sworn to defend and protect people. This duty extends to those in custody or suspected of wrongdoing. Violating the civil rights of those in custody is considered police misconduct. 

What Are Your Rights if You Are Injured in Police Custody?

Every citizen is entitled to their civil rights. Being injured in police custody should never happen. Police misconduct occurs when a law enforcement officer exceeds the limits of their authority, abuses their power, or otherwise deprives a person of their civil rights. 

Every citizen has rights protected under the Constitution of the United States, civil rights statutes, and the constitution of the state, including:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Office of Justice Programs Program Statute

The violation of civil liberties is taken seriously on a state and federal level. Some civil rights violations can lead to the unlawful injury of a person in custody include the following:

  • Unlawful detention: Law enforcement must have a reason to detain a person. Whether it is a traffic stop or a police stop where a person is frisked on the street, they must have a suspicion a crime has occurred. Unlawful detention can also arise when police retain a person for questioning for an excessive amount of time. 
  • Excessive use of force: Excessive use of force is a general term applied to a variety of situations. Excessive force refers to circumstances where an officer exceeds the amount of force necessary to subdue a suspect, diffuse a situation, or otherwise protect themselves from harm. 
  • False arrest: A false arrest is also referred to as false imprisonment. A false arrest may have occurred when law enforcement intentionally takes someone into custody against their will and without probable cause. 

Unfortunately, the media is speckled with examples of police misconduct.  

What Are Some Examples of People Injured in Police Custody?

Personal injury law

Police misconduct and brutality have been given greater attention in recent years. Thanks to the effort of social justice organizations, media coverage, and individuals, several states and local governments have taken steps to reform agencies across the country. 

Recent stories depicting possible police misconduct have involved children and adults. 

Toddler Injured in Police Custody

In Pensacola, Florida, a 1-year-old toddler has been seriously hurt while in police custody. According to news reports, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old were staying with their father. In the early morning, while the family was still asleep, Pensacola police SWAT officers executed a search warrant by ramming the door and entering the home. 

Reportedly the father, fearing a home invasion, fired rounds and hit one of the officers. At 5 a.m., the children’s mother was called and notified her toddler had been injured in police custody. 

EMS was called for the toddler for a hemorrhage and laceration. However, the call was canceled 20 minutes after it was placed. EMS did not take the baby to the hospital for his injuries. 

The toddler’s mother immediately took her child to the hospital, documenting all injuries with CAT scans, pictures, and X-rays. 

According to police, both toddlers were left in the back of a police car with an investigator. However, the investigator got out of the car and left the 1 and 3-year-old unattended. When the investigator returned, the 1-year-old baby fell out of the car and smashed his face on the pavement. The pictures may be disturbing for some viewers. 

While an internal investigation has been launched, the family is left with many questions. The father and subject of the search warrant does not have a criminal record. In addition, the investigation that led SWAT officers to his home does not list him as a suspect in any crime. 

Man Suffers Paralyzing Injuries in Police Custody

In New Haven, Connecticut, a man has been severely paralyzed while in law enforcement custody. A 36-year-old man was arrested in June for the illegal possession of a firearm. The man was en route to New Haven Police Headquarters to be booked when the transport van suddenly stopped to avoid a collision. 

There are no seatbelts in the police transport vans. The man was thrown head-first into the van’s back wall. Since June, the man has lived on a respirator and feeding tube due to his injuries. His family has noted he has some movement in his left arm but otherwise has had no improvement. 

According to reports, after the abrupt stop, the van continued to its destination. The officer did not stop the van until the injured man was heard begging him for help. After opening the van, the officer made the decision to call the ambulance to the police station instead of to the scene, leaving the victim in pain and alone throughout the rest of the trip. 

Upon arriving at the police station, officers did not wait for the injured man to be checked out by paramedics. Instead, officers dragged the injured man out of the van.

A family representative has informed news outlets that the man continues to fight for his life on a respirator and feeding tube. Surgery is scheduled. 

Man Dies Crying for Help in Police Custody

In the UK, a man died while in police custody after officers ignored his pleas for help. According to accounts of the incident, reports from police, and camera footage, the man begged officers for help. The man was experiencing severe chest pains. As an asthmatic, the man continued to cry for help, claiming he could not breathe. 

During custody, he was handcuffed and laid down on the sidewalk. The camera footage shows the man pleading, “I’m fading. I’m going to die. Stand me up now.” After a few moments, the man went into cardiac arrest. 

Other recordings of the officers show none took the man’s cries for help seriously. Instead, they resorted to making fun of the man as he lay dying on the sidewalk in front of their eyes.

According to the coroner’s assessment, the man died from a combination of the following:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Acute asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Dehydration
  • Situational stress

The man’s death was easily preventable. He had asked for his inhaler during his custody but was refused. He also requested medical care and was also denied. Paramedics were not called until he went into cardiac arrest, at which point it was too late to save the man’s life. 

What are Police Brutality and Misconduct?

Tasked with enforcing the law, police are held to a higher standard of conduct. Given their training and responsibilities, there is no excuse for the above accounts. 

Understanding the gravity of police brutality and misconduct requires a deep dive into the legal implications and the rights of those affected. When individuals are harmed, not just on the streets but in environments where they expect safety, the question of liability arises. For instance, property owners must be aware of premises liability, which holds them accountable for injuries sustained on their property due to negligence. This is akin to the accountability we expect from our law enforcement. Similarly, injuries at public events such as a fall at the fair can lead to questions about who is responsible for ensuring safety and how victims can seek justice. In the same vein, construction workers who suffer a fall at a construction site in Iowa have specific rights and protections under the law, reflecting the broader principle that those in positions of authority or responsibility must uphold safety and proper conduct. When misconduct occurs, whether by a property owner or a police officer, the injured parties are entitled to seek compensation for their injury claim damages, which can include medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses. Understanding these rights is crucial, especially when facing the daunting task of covering accident medical bills that can accumulate after such incidents.

If you have been injured in police custody in Iowa, please call us at 515-444-4000 or contact MSMC for a free consultation

If you’re dealing with injuries sustained in a car accident in Des Moines, you need a Des Moines car accident lawyer to help you navigate the legal system. A skilled lawyer can assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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