On February 1st, a video emerged of police officers in Rochester, New York, pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl. There were nine police officers at the scene. Three of the officers have been suspended. The bodycam footage showed police officers trying to restrain the girl, who was in handcuffs.
The girl disobeyed commands and was pepper-sprayed by a police officer. The video shows the girl repeatedly and frantically screaming as the officers tried to restrain her. The police were called because the girl was allegedly suicidal, and she was taken to the hospital after being pepper-sprayed, where she received mental health services. This story is one of many examples of police harassment and abuse that have come to light in recent news headlines. We will discuss what constitutes police harassment in Philadelphia below.
The Philadelphia Police Department Has a History of Sexual Harassment
One type of police harassment involves sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Police Department has a history of sexual harassment cases. Police harassment can include police officers sexually harassing suspects or defendants, but it can also include police officers harassing other police officers. In 2017, the city of Philadelphia paid out $1.25 million to settle sexual harassment claims against several of its officers.
One woman claims that a veteran police officer sexually assaulted her and engaged in pervasive sexual harassment. Over the past 10 years, the city of Philadelphia has paid $222,000 to resolve five different sexual harassment lawsuits involving police officers. Another woman had accused a veteran police officer of forcing her to engage in a sex act in his police car in 2006. The department says it is taking allegations of sexual harassment seriously. However, the Philadelphia Police Department has a history of not doing anything to combat rampant harassment by its officers.
The Definition of Police Harassment
Police harassment is a specific type of police misconduct. Some people are not even aware of police harassment, even though it is a far too common occurrence. As civilians, we expect that police officers will protect and serve our communities, as required by their oath. However, some police officers abuse their power and harass innocent citizens. Police harassment occurs when an officer arbitrarily or continually stops someone. Officers may engage in aggressive questioning of an innocent person or conduct an illegal or unwarranted search and seizure, called a “stop and frisk,” without any legal basis.
In some cases, police officers who engage in harassment are merely abusing their authority because of the feeling of power it gives them. In other cases, police officers use their power to retaliate against others who have wronged them. Police officers may abuse their power by lashing out against groups of people they dislike or suspects with whom they have had previous negative encounters. Whatever the motivation, police harassment is illegal. If you have been the victim of police harassment, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
Police Officers Can Use Stop and Frisks to Harass Innocent Citizens
Various actions can be classified as police harassment. In some cases, law enforcement officers use legitimate police protocols against ordinary citizens to harass them. While police officers do have the right to stop and question citizens, they cannot simply stop anyone they do not like and they cannot arbitrarily choose people to stop and question. Police officers must have reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed and that the citizen was involved in the crime.
Law enforcement officers are permitted to engage in a limited protection search. They are not allowed to use these types of searches to harass people. Police officers must be able to give an account for the basis of their reasonable suspicion that a person is armed before they can frisk someone for weapons. Their reasonable suspicion must be based on objective facts that they can articulate, not just a “gut feeling.” According to the plain view doctrine, if police officers simply see an item that is contraband, they can confiscate it legally and take any further action as appropriate. However, sometimes police officers will falsely claim that they saw contraband or thought they saw contraband to justify harassment.
Examples of Police Harassment
There are many different types of police harassment, such as the following:
- Illegal detention
- Illegal search and seizure
- Use of excessive force
- Racial or ethnic profiling
- Illegal “stop and frisk” without objectively reasonable suspicion
- Making sexist, racist, or homophobic comments
- Sexual harassment
- Surveillance abuse
- Political repression
- Off-duty harassment
- False arrest
Filing a Complaint Against a Philadelphia Police Officer
If you have been the victim of police harassment or brutality, you may be entitled to compensation. We believe that victims of police brutality should hold abusive police officers responsible for their actions. Police harassment can have serious emotional, physical, and financial consequences for victims and their families. We want to help you hold the police officer who engages in harassment accountable for their actions. Nobody should be able to get away with using their power to abuse Philadelphia residents, regardless of the circumstances.
You deserve justice, and our attorneys are here to help you fight for it. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to file a claim with the city or file a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact a Philadelphia Police Harassment Lawyer
Have you or your loved one been exposed to harassment by Philadelphia police officers? If so, it is crucial that you discuss your case with an experienced police harassment lawyer as soon as possible. At Abramson & Denenberg, P.C., we focus a large portion of our legal practice on representing police brutality and harassment victims. We have a successful track record of holding Philadelphia police officers responsible. We will review your case and advise you of your legal options. Contact us today to learn how we can fight for your rights.