Law enforcement officers in Las Vegas have the complex, demanding job of keeping residents, tourists, and the public safe. There are times, however, when police officers may overstep and take unreasonable actions, whether intentionally or by accident. In these situations, it’s essential to understand the legal options available to seek compensation or pursue legal action against an officer. Review this guide to learn more about excessive force and your Las Vegas rights in these situations.
What Is Excessive Force?
While there’s no federal definition of excessive force, the Legal Information Institute defines it as an extreme level of force used by a police officer during an arrest, investigatory stop, or seizure. Law enforcement agencies in Nevada and across the country allow officers to use a reasonable amount of force, known as “use of force,” in critical situations, such as when protecting themselves or others from harm. While officers may strive to use a reasonable level of force only when necessary, there may be times when they violate a department’s policy and commit misconduct.
Excessive force typically involves physical violence and can be dangerous, resulting in serious injuries or even death. While excessive force can vary widely based on the situation, here are some examples of excessive force by a law enforcement officer:
- Punching, kicking or beating a suspect who has been subdued.
- Misusing a Taser to restrain a suspect.
- Deploying pepper spray to control large crowds at a peaceful protest.
- Performing an unconstitutional strip search of a suspect.
- Making derogatory comments or using racial slurs or epithets.
- Unnecessarily drawing or using a firearm.
Can Excessive Force Be Called Assault?
Typically, an assault refers to an act that causes another person physical harm. When a law enforcement officer uses excessive force, the act is typically considered an assault. The person who suffered the physical harm may file an excessive force or battery claim against the law enforcement officer who used force. In some cases, the officer may face criminal charges of assault or battery. If this happens, a judge or jury will determine whether the officer used a reasonable amount of force in the situation or committed an assault or battery.
What Is Considered Reasonable Force?
Law enforcement officers can use what’s considered a reasonable amount of force in various circumstances. Typically, officers can only use force if they have exhausted other methods of de-escalation, such as verbal commands. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) has a use-of-force policy, which says officers can only use reasonable force “to bring an incident or persons under control and to safely accomplish a lawful purpose.”
The LVMPD use-of-force policy outlines three levels of force officers can use, depending on the situation. Here’s an explanation of each level of force:
LVMPD officers can use this level of force when interacting with obstructive people who may be uncooperative or ignore an officer’s commands but are not likely to present a physical threat to officers or others. This level of control allows officers to use various actions or items, including verbal communication, handcuffs, restraints, or batons, specifically as escort tools.
Under the use-of-force policy, LVMPD officers can use intermediate force when interacting with someone who is assaultive and has the potential to cause injury or pain. Officers can use a variety of intermediate force techniques, such as empty-hand tactics like strikes or kicks, special restraints, pepper spray, or precision intervention techniques (PIT), which allow police vehicles to make contact with a fleeing vehicle at speeds of 40 mph or less.
The LVMPD use-of-force policy allows officers to use deadly force in extreme situations where a person’s actions are life-threatening and likely to result in death or substantial bodily injury. If choosing to use deadly force, officers must consider various elements, including the ability of a person to cause injury or death to an officer or others and the person’s opportunity, such as their relative distance to officers or others. The officer must also have reasonably considered and exhausted other forms of de-escalation before using deadly force.
According to LVMPD, deadly force may include using batons to strike a person’s head, neck, chest, or groin; firing a low-lethality shotgun at a distance of fewer than seven yards, or using PIT maneuvers at speeds more than 40 mph. This level of force also includes firearm use. While deadly force may be considered reasonable in some situations, the policy states that an officer will not use deadly force against a person who poses a threat only to themselves.
What Can You Do if You See or Experience Excessive Force?
In Las Vegas, you can report the use of excessive force to the LVMPD Citizen Review Board. Established in 1997, the board performs independent reviews to investigate misconduct complaints against police officers and review LVMPD internal investigations. The board determines and recommends sanctions for officer misconduct, including disciplinary actions for officers, additional training, or changes to existing policies.
If you want to make an excessive force complaint to the board, you have three options:
- In-person: You can make a complaint by visiting the board’s office at 330 S. Third St., Suite 670, Las Vegas. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
- Online: You can complete a complaint form and submit it online, mail it to the board’s office, or email the form to [email protected].
- Phone: Call the board at 702-455-6322 to speak with someone who can answer questions and provide instructions for filing a complaint.
Anyone can file an excessive force complaint, and you have one year from the date of the incident to submit your complaint. In addition to the complaint, you can also choose to file a civil suit or pursue criminal charges against a police officer. If you want to take those actions, contact a De Castroverde Law Group lawyer as soon as possible, and we’ll provide a free consultation to help you understand the next steps.
Contact De Castroverde Law Group for an Excessive Force Consultation
The De Castroverde Law Group provides legal help and resources related to excessive force and police misconduct. If you believe a police officer violated your rights during an arrest, our lawyers can help you file a lawsuit to seek fair and just compensation. We also defend police officers who have been accused of excessive force or police misconduct. Contact our law offices for a free consultation and let us fight for you to receive the best possible outcome for your case.