Essay Preview: Excessive Force
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In Crumley v. City of St. Paul, 324 F.3d 1003 (8th Cir. 2003), a police officer had stopped an individual for a traffic violation and, while doing his investigation, the plaintiff, an attorney, approached the stopped vehicle to hand out a business card. Id. The officer yelled at the plaintiff to get away, pushed her approximately five times and tightly handcuffed her in such a fashion as to cause bleeding to one of her wrists. Id. at 1005. The court found that the de minimus use of force or injury was insufficient to support a finding of a constitutional violation. Id. at 1007. Particularly harmful to the plaintiffs position in that case was her lack of physical injury from the officers push or shove. Id. at 1008. In addition, the court found that the plaintiffs resistance justified the use of greater force by the officer. Id. The court also found that the absence of any long term or permanent physical injury as a result of the handcuffing were insufficient to state a claim of constitutionally excessive force. Id.
See Gold v. City of Miami, 121 F.3d 1142, 1146 (l1th Cir. 1997) (twenty minutes in handcuffs was found reasonable despite suspects complaints that handcuffs were too tight); Nemeckay v. Rule, 894 F.Supp 310 (D. Mich. 1995) (twenty-five minutes in handcuffs characterized as “short period of time”); Foster v. Metropolitan Airports Commission, 914 F.2d 1076 (8th Cir. 1990) (Plaintiff detained in handcuffs for two hours and court found that plaintiff s allegations of pain, without some evidence of a more permanent injury, were insufficient to support excessive force claim); Glen v. City of Tyler, 242 F.3d 307 (5th Cir. 2001) (despite plaintiffs claims that she was handcuffed so tightly her wrists became swollen, the court found that “handcuffing too tightly, without more, does not amount to excessive force”).
Whether an officers actions are “objectively reasonable” is determined in light of the facts and circumstances facing them without regard to their underling intent or motives. Hayak v. City o/St. Paul, _ F.3d _, _ (No. 06-3802) (8th Cir. June 29, 2007) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 88 (1980)). The reasonableness of the use of deadly force to effectuate a seizure is analyzed under the Fourth Amendments reasonableness standard. Craighead v. Lee, 399 F.3d 954, 961 (8th Cir. 2005). When probable cause that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or to others exists, it is reasonable to apprehend the suspect by using deadly force. Hayek, _ F.3d at _ (citing Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194,97-98 (2004)).
In Hernandez v. Jarman, 340 F.3d 617, 620 (8th Cir. 2003), officers chased the erratically driving decedent for forty-five miles, and through several road blocks, before the decedent turned his vehicle around and came back down the same path in the opposite direction. Id. at 621. An officer then jumped out of the squad car and shot four shots at the decedent within seconds of exiting the squad car. Id. The decedents vehicle then collided with the squad car. Id. It is unknown whether the shots were fired before the collision occurred. Id. First, the court noted that a car collision does not create a seizure unless the officer intended the collision to occur. Id. at 623. Second, the court concluded that the use of deadly force was reasonable because the decedent lead the officers on a lengthy and dangerous chase culminating with intentionally colliding with the officers vehicle. Moreover, an officer testified