Last year, examples of police abuses of power were front and center in the media. In one case here in Colorado, recently released videos show the arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia. Bodycam video shows officers forcibly pushing her to the ground and handcuffing her before pinning the 80-pound woman against a police car. Additional video captures police talking about her as she sits chained to a bench at the local jail.
The incident occurred last June in Loveland. A security employee stopped the woman as she left Walmart with less than $14 in merchandise she hadn’t paid for. She returned the items and began to walk home. Police officers caught up with her a couple of blocks from her home. She apparently didn’t understand what was happening and didn’t stop. That’s when the violent arrest ensued.
Family files federal lawsuit
In the lawsuit, the family contends that the woman was in the local jail for over six hours before she received medical attention for a dislocated shoulder and broken arm she suffered in the arrest. In a video from the jail, one officer is heard laughing and saying, “Well, I think it went great. You?” No response is heard from his partner. He also admits he didn’t read the woman her Miranda rights.
The lawsuit, filed this April, names the two officers, their supervisor and the Loveland Police Department. It alleges excessive force, violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and due process and deliberate indifference to the woman’s medical needs.
Both former officers face criminal charges
Nearly a year after the incident, the former officers were charged with multiple offenses. The officer who took the lead in the arrest faces charges including assault and official misconduct. The other is facing charges including failure to intervene and to report the use of force.
The attorney for the woman’s family says the criminal charges are “not satisfactory.” She says, “This is not an excessive force case, it’s torture,” The woman’s daughter-in-law says she hasn’t been the same since the arrest, which accelerated her dementia.
Police have a legal duty to refrain from using excessive force with people they detain. They also have a duty to stop their fellow officers who do and to report instances of wrongdoing. When police act illegally, victims have the right to take civil legal action in addition to whatever criminal charges the government files.