Excessive Force - Police Officers – Qualified Immunity
Published on Thursday, July 22, 2021
Last month the US Supreme Court vacated a decision of the 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals which granted qualified immunity to St. Louis police officers in an excessive force case. The case involved the death of a detainee while restrained in police custody.
Excessive force refers to that amount of force used by a police officer which is beyond the amount of force a reasonable officer would use under similar circumstances. The use of excessive force by law enforcement is a Constitutional violation.
Qualified immunity shields officers from liability unless the officer violated a clearly established Constitutional right. It is an objective test designed to protect all but “the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court because the 8th Circuit didn’t reach the question of qualified immunity since it failed to determine whether the type of restraint used by law enforcement was constitutionally acceptable in the first place. The high court appears to be signaling that excessive force cases will require a detailed review and cannot be dismissed lightly.
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