Police Officers Use Excessive Force Against Mentally Ill Person


taserThe plaintiff in this case had an extensive history of mental illness. On the day in question, his ex-wife called 911 and reported that he was drunk and being argumentative. Police officers responded, and started talking to him. He refused to allow the officers to enter, and would only talk with them through the cracked front door, which was otherwise secured by a chain. An Emergency Service Unit (“ESU”) arrived, broke down the door, entered the home, and promptly tasered him twice, even though he was unarmed. The officers used a close proximity taser, and then used a dart taser. After the tasering, the police physically subdued/forced the plaintiff and proceeded to remove the darts, which had lodged in his face. The police took the handcuffed plaintiff to be evaluated at a mental health hospital where doctors, finding no reason to conclude he was a threat of any kind, immediately released him. An expert witness in police activities was retained for this issue.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Were the police justified in taking the plaintiff into custody? And, if so,
  • 2. Was the level of force used appropriate?

Expert Witness Response E-006414

I specialize in law enforcement liability. I have trained law enforcement officers in every state of the union in the areas of police pursuit and use of force. I am recognized as an expert in these fields, and have testified as such an expert in many courts. The answer to the Question 1 is ‘No.’ The ex-wife, though obviously upset with the plaintiff, did not claim that he had committed any crime. And the plaintiff was unarmed. Regarding Question 2, the level of force used cannot be justified. Again, the plaintiff was unarmed. He had not used, or threatened to use, any force against the police. Thus the use of tasers was out of proportion to the situation at hand. That the dart taser was aimed at the plaintiff’s face, whether intentionally or inadvertently, is shocking. There is simply no reason to fire at the face – the taser is just as effective when aimed at the body mass. The officers who arrived on the scene should not have removed the Taser darts from the suspect themselves, but should have left it to trained professionals; either emergency medical personnel or the trained medical personnel at the psychiatric institution. Finally, the fact that the mental health facility immediately released the plaintiff further establishes that the use of force was insupportable. Finally, the police agency responsible for training and/or employing the officers involved here should be held liable for failure to properly train and/or supervise the officers.

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