Legal Studies

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Thompson-Starr (B)

Police Officer, excessive force, qualified immunity. Part One
For many years police officers have enjoyed the power of authority over the general public with the motto “to protect and serve”. If this is the case, then let this become the yardstick that will measure the conduct that police most earnestly proclaim. Police officers are held as the safeguard of the community. They are designed to protect the people from the criminal elements and serve as role models for those who need to understand law and order. But when this breach occurs, when the police believe that they can do whatever they decide without a form of accountability, police brutality is birthed. The case of Solomon v. Auburn Hills Police Department is a prime example of unnecessary police involvement. This case is a result of information, misinformation, direction, and misdirection as to the physical presence of an adult to accompany children to a particular movie in that theatre. To have two beefy police officers arrive to resolve a dispute over a ticket purchase to me appears to have been a waste of valuable police work. Nonetheless, the officers instructed Ms. Solomon to leave, which she refused believing that she had bought tickets in this theatre what was the difference of which show. The management made it clear that the children had to be accompanied and it was obvious that Ms. Solomon was not going to leave her minor children alone to go r-rated and could not leave the r-rated alone to go g-rated. Believing that she resolved it by just selecting one show, the security guards for some reason decided to evict her from the selected show because she did not purchase her ticket for the same movie. The police entered told Solomon she had to leave; again she refused. Officer Miller decided to arrest her for trespassing and grabbed her arm. Solomon pushed the seat backed away from the officer who decided now that she was getting arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer. The police persuaded her to the lobby where the altercation continued with Officer Miller and Raskin grabbing Solomon’s arms and slamming her up against a wall and pushing her face into a display case. This scuffle left Ms. Solomon injured. Ms. Solomon was later taken to the hospital and diagnosed with having a comminuted fracture of her left elbow, several bruises, and was hospitalized because she needed surgery for her fracture, scheduled a second surgery for later, and had to have physical therapy. Solomon later on a plea bargain pleaded guilty to trespass and attempted resisting arrest. The incident as a whole was over reactive, abusive, and dumb on both parties.

The use of qualified immunity is designed to protect government officials from those who bring lawsuits against them because they did not agree with the discretionary matter in which the officials interpreted and enforced the law. The police use it to protect themselves if they exhibited excessive force they believed necessary to subdue a criminal. But the nature of the offense also has a bearing on how much force should be used. In this case the district court used the Saucier test to determine if Solomon’s constitutional rights violation was established and was the officer’s action reasonable by a reasonable objective officer’s standard. The court also determined the severity of the crime, if the person is a flight risk, and did their action take place because the police feared for their own safety. Because all of this fell short, the court affirmed the district court’s denial for summary judgment.

Of course I agree with the opinion of the district court. If the police are quick to react to any given situation knowing that they are placed in a position to make split second decision, if they are not capable of such reasoning then they should seek another line of work. Police authority comes with knowledge, protection, sound judgment, and containment. It would be unreasonable to believe...
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