Police brutality is a civil rights violation that no citizen should have to endure. Yet these cases continue to occur as countless individuals in Chicago and elsewhere find themselves victimized by law enforcement. Despite heightened awareness surrounding police brutality, victims find that proving their case is no less than an uphill battle.
Hale & Monico represents victims of police brutality and misconduct. We’re ready to explore your legal options and get started on your case today.
The Challenges Facing Victims of Police Brutality
As with any other civil lawsuit, it’s up to the victims of police brutality to prove their cases in court. There are rules that govern the court system which ideally level the playing field between plaintiff and defendant in these matters. But the reality is often different. Forcing law enforcement to turn over incriminating evidence isn’t easy. In some cases, police tamper with, hide or destroy evidence of their wrongdoing.
On top of this, police are protected by strong unions and a justice system that leans heavily in their favor. There are often attempts to blame the victim by redirecting attention away from the brutality to the victim’s criminal record or other personal problems. This makes it much easier to justify what law enforcement did and play on the fears and insecurities of jury members.
Putting it simply, a victim will face opposition and obstruction from day one. That’s why having an aggressive civil rights attorney is a must in police brutality cases.
Step One: Take Detailed Notes
When most people think of high-profile police misconduct trials, they visualize sensational, often disturbing videos and pictures. It’s true that these forms of evidence can bolster a victim’s claims in court. But not all police brutality cases have the advantage of such direct proof of wrongdoing. Even if you have such evidence, it’s essential to start with your personal recollection of what happened.
Victims should therefore take detailed notes of everything related to their interaction with police. Start with basics such as date, time, location, and precisely what happened to you. Then, make notes of the events leading up to, including, and immediately following the police assault. Be sure to include anything said by you and by the police. Put together a timeline with as much information as you recall.
Keep your notes objective. Don’t worry about what possibly motivated the police or your personal feelings about the officers involved. And be honest as well. Don’t invent details or leave things out. Law enforcement will jump at any inconsistencies or errors in your story that come out later. Write down everything, good and bad, and let your lawyer figure out how best to use it.
Step Two: Gather As Much Evidence As You Can Of The Police Brutality
As for those photos, videos, and other evidence, start getting those together now. You can begin with anything directly involving the incident itself. You may have cell phone video or pictures, or dashcam or door cam footage, that recorded what happened. Perhaps you were a bystander recording police activity right before you personally became a victim. Any physical evidence such as this should be given to your attorney right away.
Next, document the events surrounding the brutality. That could include text message exchanges you had with someone before or after the event. It might be something like a receipt for something you purchased just before the police attacked you. Evidence like this may seem trivial, but it establishes a timeline and clarifies the chronology of events in your case.
Don’t forget medical and other evidence about your injuries. If you saw a doctor, ask for your medical records. Take pictures or videos of the physical injuries (e.g. bruising) as soon after the event as you can. If you missed work because of your injuries, document that as well.
Finally, you may have physical evidence like bloody clothing or damaged property. This should be secured to prevent contamination. Wrap up clothing in a bag and store small items of damaged property in their current state. Before repairing larger items, like broken windows to your car, take pictures.
Step Three: Talk To Witnesses
If there were witnesses to the brutality, get as much information as you can from them. Write down their names and contact information, plus a brief description of what they saw. Witness testimony is often powerful evidence of brutality, especially when the witness is a disinterested party like a bystander. But any witness recollections, even from family or friends, will prove valuable in your case.
Your witnesses may have their own evidence, like a video taken of the assault. You should ask for a copy of this evidence and let your lawyer know about it as well.
Contact Our Chicago Police Brutality Lawyers
Retaining skilled legal representation is a step that all victims are encouraged to take. Time is not on your side when it comes to proving police brutality. Evidence can be lost or mishandled, witness memories can fade, and it generally becomes harder to hold officers accountable the more time that passes.
Turn to the dedicated attorneys of Hale & Monico. We fight for justice for our clients when law enforcement has violated their civil rights. Call today to schedule your consultation.