Due to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and an increase in both formal and informal awareness campaigns on social media, reports of police brutality have greatly increased throughout the nation. In many higher profile cases, unarmed suspects have been shot or otherwise killed, resulting in a public backlash.
Social media has also exploded recently with pictures of police doing kind acts or otherwise competently and courteously carrying out their jobs, but two recent Massachusetts cases underscore the prevalence of police brutality, while also demonstrating how the wind is turning in favor of the victims of police brutality or general oversight.
The Medford Case
Medford police officer Stephen LeBert has made headlines recently for threatening to “blow a [expletive] hole” in a driver’s head. Had the driver pulled a gun on the off-duty cop? No, the driver went the wrong way on a street. LeBert has since stated that even though he was not on duty, he was attempting to protect the public from what he believed to be an impaired and dangerous driver, and LeBert’s attorney has stated that LeBert really believed that his own life was in danger because the driver was revving his engine and appeared aggressive.
LeBert is currently suspended while the incident, which was caught on video, is further investigated. Although the facts of this case remain controversial despite the video recording of the event, LeBert’s file is also full of complaints from other citizens who have encountered him, many of whom referred to him as a “bully” in their complaints. Officer LeBert’s lawyer chalks up his forced leave to anti-police sentiment, but the public pressure on the Medford police department demonstrates Massachusetts citizens unwillingness to tolerate any form of police brutality, even in extremely controversial cases.
The Chicopee Case
In a more cut and dry case, a Holyoke woman will receive $135,000 after the City of Chicopee agreed to settle a police brutality case. The Holyoke woman, Maylene Maldonado, originally filed a $1 million suit against the city for police assault, failure of other police officers to intervene, failure of the city to train their police officers properly and for violating her civil rights. The lawsuit alleged that she was slammed against an elevator wall by two cops after she had been arrested and then that a sergeant pushed her to the floor after grabbing her throat.
A video of the incident shows Ms. Maldonado complaining about pain from her lip piercing from being slammed against the wall in the elevator and then shows her being grabbed around the neck before being pushed to the ground. The city of Chicopee has not admitted any wrong-doing in the incident and has stated that they settled in order to avoid additional legal fees.
If you or a loved one has been wrongfully injured in Massachusetts, contact the Worcester law firm of Peter Ventura today at 508-755-7535 for a free case evaluation. Peter Ventura has been using his legal experience since 1985 by representing clients in personal injury and other cases in Massachusetts.