Did Orlando Police Officer Violate Policy by Shooting into a Moving Vehicle?

reasonable force vs police brutalityPolice officers are authorized to use deadly force in situations where the risk of imminent death or great bodily harm is high. Deadly force, while authorized in those circumstances, is often a complex situation, since the perception of what constitutes the likelihood of great bodily harm can be highly subjective. If an officer believes he’s in danger of death or harm, he may not have the same level of perception that another officer or the average person has. Failure to follow departmental rules on the use of deadly force can lead to suspension, termination, and in some cases, indictment by a grand jury on criminal charges.

That’s the situation facing an officer of a Central Florida police department. In an effort to stop a criminal, several unmarked vehicles from the department boxed in a suspect at a shopping center. When the suspect put his vehicle into reverse rather than surrendering, he opened fire. If it’s proven that the officer was in violation of department policy, aside from termination, he could face criminal charges if his use of deadly force wasn’t authorized.

Deadly Force and Law Enforcement Officers 

Law enforcement officers in the state of Florida are guided by Force Guidelines and F.S. 776 when making deadly force decisions. Force Guidelines organize officers’ actions to resistance in several categories, one of them being “deadly force.” 

According to Force Guidelines and F.S. 776, here are the takeaways you should know:

  • Officers can’t shoot at someone whenever they want—there has to be a “reasonable and articulable” reason for doing it.
  • Deadly force is only authorized when they think deadly force is going to be used against them or someone else, or it already has been used by a subject.
  • Deadly force is defined as “any force that can reasonably result in permanent disability, great bodily harm, or death.”

With that in mind, officers throughout the state are allowed to use deadly force if the situation allows for it, but according to the Department’s policy, this particular situation may not have constituted a clear case of when deadly force is necessary.

Department Policy Violation or Good Faith?

Good Faith Doctrine is a law enforcement protocol that protects law enforcement officers from being sued or charged in situations where they act in a “good faith” manner. For example, if it’s determined that the officer shot at the suspect to protect himself or his fellow officers based on the totality of the circumstances, it could be argued that the officer was operating according to his training, experience, and law enforcement education.

However, he may have violated his department’s policy if it’s proven he wasn’t in imminent danger of great bodily harm. According to the police department’s policy:

  • “Officers should not shoot at moving cars, particularly if the sole object of the driver is to evade capture.” 
  • Officers can’t shoot at a vehicle “unless the person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle.”

While the investigation is still pending, until the bodycam video and reports are released to the public, only the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (along with an internal agency investigation) can determine whether it was indeed a criminal violation on the part of the officer. Whether through deadly force or other means, it’s been documented that law enforcement officers sometimes misuse their authority. That’s when it’s crucial to have a police brutality lawyer on hand, no matter what kind of crime you’ve been accused of.

Defend Yourself Against Excessive Police Force

Police are allowed to use force, but it has to be done in a way that conforms with department rules and regulations. While compliance and cooperation is always the best option when dealing with law enforcement, if you believe an officer used an excessive amount of force, you have a right to seek justice. At the Umansky Law Firm, we know what it takes to defend those abused by police misuse of deadly force. We have defended countless clients who were victims of excessive force, and we can defend you as well. 

Led by the husband-and-wife team of Zahra and William D. Umansky, our legal team brings more than 100 years of criminal defense experience to the table. No matter what the charges are, we provide thorough defense and personalized attention to each and every case. Give us a call 24/7 at (407) 228-3838 or complete our online contact form today.