Brain Injuries Caused by Police Brutality

Police officers do a hard job. They’re tasked with patrolling our streets, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and protecting our families from danger. They’ve taken an oath to protect and serve, and accomplishing this goal requires them to be trusted with a certain amount of power and authority. The majority of police officers use their authority as they should, acting and making decisions in a manner that is ethical and unbiased against any race or creed. Unfortunately, not all are so honorable.

You see it on the news more and more each day; police officers taking unnecessary violent action in response to perceived threats that are often unfounded and individuals who are often unarmed. Activist groups like Black Lives Matter are calling more attention to the subject, but real progress has been hard fought and slow to come.  In the meantime, innocent individuals are suffering terrible injuries, not least of which is life long brain damage or Traumatic Brain Injuries. Not only can these injuries destroy lives and families, they have the potential to be fatal.

Types of Police Brutality

Police brutality can manifest in a variety of ways. Police officers have a lot of equipment and tools available to them, and sometimes even those that weren’t meant to be weapons can become one in the hands of an officer who is acting recklessly. In many cases, the most common form of police brutality seen is the use of excessive force.

There is no textbook definition of excessive force, but generally, it is when a police officer uses more force than is required to adequately subdue a suspect and protect those in the immediate area. Police officers are authorized to use “reasonable amounts of force” to do their jobs, which means they’re constantly walking a very fine line between what is “reasonable” and “excessive.” In most cases, it takes a judge and jury for an act committed by an officer to be ruled as excessive.

Some additional forms of police brutality include:

  • Racial Slurs/profiling
  • Unwarranted strip searches/unreasonable search
  • Sexual abuse
  • False imprisonment
  • Unnecessary use of a taser
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Lethal Force

Brutality Induced Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are organized by their severity: mild traumatic brain injury, moderate traumatic brain injury, and severe brain injury. Most brain injuries incurred by victims of police brutality are through the means of excessive force and can occur because of beatings, use of firearms, reckless use of a police vehicle, and improper take downs.

These can result in a wide variety of brain injuries ranging from the mild end of the scale to the severe side.

The following are some of the Traumatic Brain Injuries most likely to occur from an altercation with a police officer:

  • Concussion: A concussion can occur from blunt force trauma to the head, whiplash, sudden movement, or a gunshot wound. A concussed person can remain conscious, but will likely feel dazed, confused, and/or sleepy. Concussions may show up on a CAT scan but, in some cases, they may not be immediately apparent to a doctor. Ultimately, a concussion can result in bleeding, swelling, blood clots, and can cause temporary or permanent damage.
  • Contusion: When you hit any part of your body with a certain amount of force it will cause bleeding under the skin and result in a bruise. A contusion is essentially a bruise on the brain induced by the bleeding caused from a direct blow to the head. Large contusions can require surgery to be successfully eliminated.
  • Coup-Contrecoup: This term is used to describe a situation where the brain withstands a contusion both at the site of impact and on the complete opposite side of the brain. This happens when the force inflicted is so intense that the brain slams against the opposite wall of the skull, causing the second contusion.
  • Diffuse Axonal: This type of brain injury is caused by rapid rotation of the head and neck. This commonly happens in car accidents, when a sudden jolt of force causes the head to turn faster than the brain can keep up with. Brain structures tear, releasing chemicals onto brain tissue, disrupting the brain’s regular activities. A diffuse axonal injury can result in permanent damage, coma, and even death.
  • Penetration: A penetrating brain injury can be inflicted by a knife, gun, or any sharp object that creates a break in the hair, skin, and bones in the head. It can also result in fragments or shrapnel from a weapon, as seen in a gunshot wound.
  • Anoxia/Hypoxic: Both of these injuries are defined by a lack of oxygen to the brain. In the case of an Anoxia injury, the brain does not receive any oxygen which, if prolonged, can result in the total destruction of brain cells. In a Hypoxic injury, the brain receives some oxygen, but not enough to maintain normal activity. Long term effects can vary, depending on how long the hypoxic state lasts.

Brutality in Wisconsin

Our great state has, unfortunately, seen its share of police brutality incidents. Just last March, citizens of Madison poured into the streets in protest of the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson. A 19-year-old black male, Robinson had reportedly attempted to assault a police officer who, in turn, shot the unarmed man. Reports of the incident simply state that the Madison police officer acted in self defense but do not address the fact that the firearm was not the only tool at the officer’s disposal that could have diffused the situation.

Wisconsin has a long history of incidents that seem to be race-related. In fact, our state has the highest incarceration rate of black men in the entire country. To make matters worse, like many of the other cities struggling through race issues, Wisconsin’s police departments are not nearly as racially diverse as some of the communities they serve. It seems as though reform may be on the horizon however, as we recently became the first state to pass legislature that would require the death of any individual in police custody to be investigated by an independent, unbiased party.

Protecting Yourself

Times may be changing, but that doesn’t mean that power can’t still be abused. Anyone could be a victim of police brutality, regardless of race, gender, or affiliation. Sometimes it’s just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The truth is, you don’t deserve to suffer because of one police officer’s split second decision or judgment call.

If you are the victim of police brutality, you can protect yourself by remembering these steps:

  1. Write down everything that happened. Record as much information as you can, as quickly after the incident as you can.
  2. Photograph everything: where you were, what was around you, your injuries, witnesses. You can’t take too many pictures.
  3. Look for witnesses and get their contact information ASAP.
  4. Seek medical and psychological attention immediately. Document each visit, each prescription, and each dollar spent on medical care as a result of the incident.
  5. Do not give a testimony and contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If you or a loved on has had an incident with the authorities that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, head injury, or any other type of injury, you may be entitled to compensation. Our Madison personal injury lawyers have worked with the victims of brain injuries in the past. We’ll handle your case with delicacy and compassion, all the while fighting hard for your rights. Remember, you don’t owe us anything unless we reach a successful settlement. Call us at 608-268-0268 or contact us now to schedule your free consultation.


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