Monday, June 23, 2008

Dos and Don'ts: Police Files Edition

Is it reasonable to repeatedly kick a prone, submissive suspect in the groin? The D.C. Circuit says no.
Striking the groin is the classic example of fighting dirty. From the schoolyard scrapper to the champion prizefighter, no pugilist takes lightly the threat of a hit below the belt. What's more, Bruce supposedly kicked a man while he was down, hard enough to produce bloody urine. Although the constable surely has authority to use physical force in effecting an arrest, there are gradations of appropriate violence. A kick to the groin tends toward the vicious end of that scale. We have no trouble finding that Bruce's repeated kicks to Johnson's groin were a serious intrusion on his Fourth Amendment interests.

Next, we consider the countervailing governmental interests. An officer in Bruce's position has a legitimate and substantial interest in apprehending an armed suspect and protecting himself and the public from possible harm. Although these are weighty interests, it is not clear how kicking Johnson in the groin furthered either of them. (citations omitted)
I have a feeling that this case never would have seen the light of day had the kickee been a regular guy, not an off-duty cop.
blog comments powered by Disqus