Maryland does not currently track the number of deaths that stem from police encounters. So, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decided to track them, and is now reporting that 109 people died as a result of police encounters between 2010-2014. That’s a significant number, and many lawmakers are now trying to do something about it.
ACLU Finds Disturbing Statistics
Of the 109 deaths, 31 occurred in Baltimore, the highest number in the state. The ACLU also reported that of those who died, nearly 70% were black, and more than 40% of them were unarmed. Less than 2% of the officers involved were charged with any type of criminal charge.
There are no statistics by the ACLU on how many may have been sued civilly by the decedent’s family members, but the Baltimore Sun has reported that according to its research, since 2011, over $6 million has been paid in lawsuits and settlements involving police brutality.
In fairness, the report doesn’t determine which, if any deaths, were justified (i.e., a suspect was putting an officer’s life in danger), nor how many deaths were not related to police actions (i.e., someone suffering a heart attack in the back of a police car). The ACLU compiled its statistics from news sources, which it acknowledged was not the best source, but it was the only one, given that the information isn’t tracked by police or government.
Legislature is Slow to Pass New Laws
Last year, the legislature did pass a law that required police to be trained in CPR. It also required cultural sensitivity training, proper use of force, and how to deal with those with physical or mental disabilities. But other than those general laws requiring training, the legislature hasn’t passed more strenuous or punitive laws.
The legislature is considering passage of laws that eliminate a 10-day waiting period that currently exists before officers can be questioned about certain incidents, and eliminating a 90-day time limit that exists for filing complaints against police officers. The laws also seek to make public the names of officers that have committed violence, misconduct or brutality.
The change that the ACLU wants to see most, however, is transparency, which leads to accountability. It contends that some kind of tracking system, and record keeping that’s publicly available, should be implemented.
Suing Civilly for Police Violence
There is, of course, a way to sue civilly if someone is injured by police brutality. Federal civil rights laws allow anyone injured as a result of a violation of civil rights by a government agent to file a lawsuit and recover damages.
Still, those lawsuits don’t carry the same weight as criminal penalties would for police brutality. And, they don’t address the problem of lack of transparency in state reporting of incidents. In many cases, a jury may give an officer’s testimony more weight than an injured victim’s, making the cases difficult to prove, although there have been significant police brutality verdicts around the country.
If you feel you have been injured by unfair or excessive police force, you may have a civil lawsuit for damages. Make sure you have attorneys that understand the laws that protect you, and who can properly analyze the facts of your case. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.