Paul Edlund

Attorney at Law

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New Kansas Law Would Help Hide Police Brutality

Police BrutalityKansas citizens will have a tougher time filing police brutality claims if House Bill No. 2698 passes into law.

HB 2698 would require all citizens to sign a sworn affidavit before submitting a complaint against an offending officer. If any part of the complaint if later revealed to be inaccurate, the citizen could face prosecution.

Limiting a citizen’s ability to report police behavior is a dangerous, slippery slope. Rather than discouraging complaints against police officers, we should be encouraging people to freely report any misconduct they witness. This is good for the police department as it helps weed out the few bad officers who lend a bad name to the majority of good officers.

Instead, Kansas is going in the opposite direction. I know proponents of this bill claim that it will protect officers from false allegations, but oftentimes these cases come down to a “he-said she-said” argument. The court may be inclined to take an officer’s word over that of an average citizen, meaning a legitimate claim may actually end up resulting in prosecution of the victim.

Dangerous Law

A current case I am working highlights how an officer’s report of an incident can differ greatly from what actually happened. Without going into too much detail, you can view this video and see for yourself how much the victim was actually resisting when taken into custody with brute force by responding police officers. Without video evidence, a judge may be inclined to believe the police report penned by the officers in question, but the video tells a different tale. What would have happened if this occurred in Kansas, especially if the video evidence didn’t exist?

Interestingly, a Washington Post author found that the Wichita police rejected 100 of the last 100 racial profiling cases. If HB 2698 were law, all those individuals could face felony charges. With the odds stacked against them, this bill will certainly prevent individuals with legitimate claims from coming forward out of fear. I certainly hope the bill is rejected.

Police Pull Gun on 11-Year-Old Building Tree Fort

Recreated SceneAn 11-year-old boy in Georgia found himself staring down the barrel of a gun all because he left a few sticks on the ground near his neighbor’s house.

Like Gordie Lachance in Stand By Me, 11-year-old Omari Grant was looking to make some memories he’d never forget by building a tree fort in the woods behind his back yard. Armed with the tools and the desire to make it happen, Grant and friends began gathering materials and cutting down small branches to aid in assembly when a grouchy neighbor decided to end their fun. The neighbor called the local police department to report that the boys were creating a tripping hazard after some branches were left behind.

Authorities arrived on scene, and one of the officers felt it necessary to draw his service weapon while approaching the kids. Police ordered the kids to lie on the ground and spread their legs like a wanted fugitive. Grant and friends said they were scared by officer’s frightening language and the prospect of being shot, so they complied with the officer’s orders.

“I was just thinking, I don’t wanna be shot today…so I just listened to what he said,” Grant told a local TV station.

A terrified Grant ran to his mother after the ordeal, and she decided to take action against the police. She recently filed an excessive force complaint against the Henry County Police Department.

On its face this case seems ridiculous. Police officers have dangerous jobs, but they also need to be able to de-escalate situations calmly, especially when young children are involved. This incident could negatively impact the child’s psychology for the rest of his life. I hope the mother and child are successful in their case against the police department.

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