A Newbury police sergeant has been formally charged with assault and battery and falsifying a police report. The officer had been placed on administrative leave with pay since last May because the department had received complaints that the officer used excessive force in his arrest of a teenager. The officer, from Rowley MA, was arraigned in Haverhill District Court and is out on his own personal recognizance until July 6. If the officer is found guilty he faces up to 2 and a half years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The suspension of the officer began shortly after the May 13th arrest of a local 19 year old Brighton resident. According to the Newbury police log, the teen was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and three counts of assault and battery on a police officer. In a contradicting report written by state trooper, Lt. Steven McDonald, the officer repeatedly struck the teen in the face while he was on the ground and days later he filed a materially false police report regarding the arrest.
Lt. McDonald wrote that the officer "failed to report the use of force and violence against the teen during the course of the incident, including closed-fist punches to the teen while he was on the ground." The investigation of the officer has been speculated to have been transferred to the Suffolk district to ward off any accusations of favoritism to the Rowley officer.
The full article can be seen here.
Attorney Tofani, of counsel to Parker|Scheer, LLP and an associate of the firm's criminal practice group, reflects:
As a police officer, acting during the course of his employment, the above-referenced suspect faces potential civil penalties in addition to the currently filed criminal charges.
Chapter 42 of the United States Code, section 1983 essentially provides civil remedies when injury is caused as a result of a state-actor (e.g. - police officer), while acting under the color of law, deprives another of any rights as they are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
For example, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure of any individual. Accordingly, if a police officers' actions are found to be objectively unreasonable in the context of the totality of the circumstances, and violate a clearly established constitutionally protected right of an individual, the officer is subject to potential civil penalties pursuant to said federal statute.
An increasingly difficult obstacle to overcome when pursuing such a claim is the defense of qualified immunity that is available to police officers. Essentially, qualified immunity was established with the intention of preventing the fear of legal prosecution from inhibiting the officers' ability and willingness to effectively enforce the laws.