Use of force reports were up to 1,703 cases in 2009 from 1,152 cases in 2008 in Austin. But this doesn’t mean the cops are using more force. On the contrary, organizations are applauding what led to the increased numbers—increased reporting on the heels of federal recommendations.
In 2008, the United States Justice Department made a list of recommendations to the city of Austin after several communities cried for help in what they saw as an unbalanced use of force on minorties. Among those recommendations was better reporting practices. These reporting practices are said to be causing what appears to be more use of force incidences.
Assistant Austin Police Chief John Hutto states, “We are capturing more and better data than we were before.”
Not only are the police reporting use of force incidences from their patrol car computers, they’ve received training on which incidents qualify as a “use of force”, and are now being directed to file a report even if other officers were involved and filing reports. In other words, each officer must account for the use of force.
President of the Austin branch of the NAACP states he is impressed, “I see a lot more training, I see a lot more caution, and I see a lot more respect.”
A racial disparity remains among use of force incidents, however, with 1.4% of whites experiencing such an action during arrest while 2% of blacks and 1.9% of Hispanics experienced use of force. Unfortunately, this disparity is not alarmingly high given the systematic racially skewed criminal justice system as a whole.
The department’s report states that the majority of these use of force actions were of the non serious variety—using batons, pepper spray, and stun guns. You would probably be hard pressed to find one of the citizens which a baton was used on to call their encounter “not serious”.
Even with the increased reports, use of force cases are rare. But even when physical force is not used, it’s not uncommon for people to feel bullied by the police during the arrest and investigation process. There is a fine line between bullying and infringing on someone’s constitutional rights, however.
When you are arrested or even questioned by the police, you are entitled to certain treatment. If the police cross this boundary with an improper search or failing to advise you of your rights, it can affect the entire case against you. A criminal defense attorney is there to assist you in ensuring your rights are protected from your first encounter with law enforcement until your case is discharged in the courts.
If you are facing charges, contact our offices today for a free consultation on your case. You don’t have to be a victim of police brutality to be treated unfairly by the cops and we can help you determine if the police acted outside of their proper procedures.