Norfolk Police Chief Says Force Against Army Reservist Bit by Police Dog Was “Unreasonable”
The Virginian-Pilot has reported that Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith has placed one Norfolk police officer on administrative leave, and has also conceded that the use of force against an Army reservist was unreasonable. Reports indicated that Norfolk State University student and reservist London Colvin left a party because a fight broke out. Colvin had been knocked down by partygoers and was attempting to leave. Subsequently, a police K-9 bit Colvin’s leg several times. Richard James, a retired police officer and local NAACP member reports that the K-9 caused severe injuries to Colvin’s leg.
This incident is very disturbing to me. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers has been handling two separate claims against Norfolk police officers for alleged excessive force in the shooting deaths of Norfolk residents Joshua Johnson and David Latham. Given our experience with these cases, I want to explain the three main areas of redress someone may have who has been injured by excessive police force.
1 – In instances involving shooting deaths or serious injury, a prosecutor may review the incident to determine if the police officer’s actions were criminal. Prosecutors have broad charging discretion. If a prosecutor finds evidence of a crime, he or she can charge the officer, however this course is rarely taken.
2 – Use of force is typically reviewed internally by police departments, which appears to be happening now with the London Colvin incident. Often, as with this case, the involved officer is placed on administrative leave so an internal affairs investigation can be performed. An officer’s actions will be reviewed against the police department’s internal policies and procedures, which control police conduct with the public. If the police officer is found to have violated police rules, then he can be disciplined and even fired.
It is very unusual for a police chief to comment with any detail on an ongoing investigation, but that is exactly what Chief Goldsmith has done. He has already declared that the officer used unreasonable force, and also expressed concern over his Department’s K-9 policy. The result of the internal investigation is still unknown, but Chief Goldsmith feelings are clear. This admission may be a result of some of the controversial cases Norfolk police have been involved in in recent years, as well as the volatile national climate post Ferguson.
3 – Victims of excess force can sue a perpetrating officer for damages incurred under state and federal law. The Fourth Amendment guarantees to everyone freedom from the use of unreasonable force by police. A police office is judged by what force a reasonable police office would use under a given circumstance. The use of any greater force is unconstitutionally excessive and gives rise to a claim for damages, which can include payment for (1) any bodily injury sustained, (2) physical pain, both past, present and future, (3) any resulting disfigurement, deformity or scarring, (4) any associated humiliation or embarrassment, (5) inconvenience, (6) reimbursement for medical expenses, and (7) even lost earnings.
If you are interested in reading more about this complicated area of the law, I have attached a brief we filed last year in an excessive force lawsuit opposing the police officers’ failed attempt to dismiss the case.
The admissions of the police chief about the department’s K-9 policy makes me wonder if there have been other attacks by police dogs on Norfolk citizens. If you have suffered injuries from a police dog, you should talk to our Norfolk personal injury lawyers at 757.455.0077.