All across the country people are waking up to the issue of excessive use of force by police. Several instances of overt police violence have made headlines, with many encounters ending in preventable deaths. Although excessive use of force may violate the Fourth Amendment, victims of excessive police force may only pursue civil charges against arresting officers and possibly the municipality that employs them. Though the officers may have done wrong, they generally do not face criminal charges for using excessive force when placing a person under arrest. A victim’s only hope for justice is to seek damages in the form of a civil lawsuit.
Locally, police have been accused of using excessive force right here in Oregon. Two years ago in south Eugene, a mother panicked and called a non-emergency hotline in the hopes of receiving help from a crisis intervention team when her son experienced a psychotic break. What happened next led to a civil battle between Eugene law enforcement officers and the family they failed after an encounter with a mentally ill teenager went horribly wrong.
Insufficient Support for Mentally Ill Prompts Police Use of Force
Unable to control her son, Ayisha Elliott called a non-emergency crisis intervention hotline to receive support. Quinton Richardson-Brown was in the grip of a psychiatric episode. Expecting a group of personnel to help her access the appropriate services, four police officers arrived at her door. To say they were of little help is an understatement.
“Instead, the police came and beat the hell out of both of them.” Attorney Brian Michael described the scene to the jury in U.S. District Court when making his opening statement. When police walked in, he said, Elliott’s son, a 19-year-old university student when the episode took place, was handcuffed when officer Matthew Stropko used a stun gun to subdue him. When the gun failed to take effect, the officer used his fist to strike him in the face.
Ms. Elliott also claimed to be a victim of excessive use of force. She had sustained injuries after being thrown to the ground on her deck by Eugene police Sgt. Bill Solesbee, who jumped on her back and shoved her head into the floor. Elliott, a caseworker for the Department of Human Services, was later arrested