Criminal Justice in Police Brutality

When you think of a case involving police brutality you don’t usually think of a police officer getting off scot-free. But in the Case of Escondido v Emmons, we see the police officer is not charged for his crimes, but the actions of officers were seen as correct. The case was ruled in favor of the city because of the body cam footage that they had of the actions that took place. With this video feed in hand, the city of Escondido was able to clear the names of their officers and win the case against Mr. Emmons. Based on the evidence that was presented to the court I agree with the ruling. But is this really the right outcome or should the city pay Mr. Emmons for the actions of its officers?

The case of Escondido v. Emmons goes like this. In April of 2013, the Escondido Police Department were responding to a domestic violence call where Maggie Emmons’ (the victim) husband was arrested. A month later, the officers were called again for the same call at the same residence. A second officer was dispatched this time and they were informed that there could be children involved as well this time. When the officers arrived at the scene, they were able to talk with Maggie Emmons through a side window and they convinced her to open the door. While this conversation was happening, an unknown man told Maggie to back away from the window. While this was taking place more officers were arriving. A few minutes later a man opened the door to the apartment and came outside. The officers asked him to leave the door open but he proceeded to close the door and attempted to push past the officers. The officer stopped him and brought him to the ground and handcuffed him. Minutes later they picked him up and arrested him with charges of resisting arrest and delaying an officer. They later found out that the man was Maggie Emmons’ father, Marty Emmons. Mr. Marty Emmons decided to sue all the officers that were present and the city of Escondido for excessive force. The federal district court rejected the claims of excessive force for all officers except the one that took down Emmons. The court also ruled that there was no law prohibiting the action that the officer took and because of this he was was granted immunity. The case was later brought up against the Ninth Circuit Court which ruled that the excessive force claim should have been placed against two officers and that at the time there was a clearly established law and the conduct of the officers was inappropriate and unlawful. The case was then brought in front of the Supreme Court where, in a per curiam opinion, reversed the Ninth Circuit ruling back to one officer being charged. They also stated because the Ninth Circuit did not specify where the “clearly established law” was, that there was no way to revoke the immunity granted to the officer. It seems fairly clear to me that because the Ninth Circuit did not do their job to the fullest extent, that there was no way for the Supreme Court to charge the officer with excessive force even if he was in the wrong. The controversy in this whole case is the fact that they, despite not having another option, let the officer go off scot-free. This is all thanks to the body camera video and audio feed that shows that the man, Mr. Marty Emmons wasn’t in pain when they took him to the ground.

What helped keep this case fair and ultimately caused the Supreme Court judges to vote without argument that the officer, Robert Craig, was not guilty of using excessive force was the body camera footage that they had of Marty Emmons takedown. The body camera video feed clearly showed that there was only one officer who took down Mr. Emmons and the audio showed that Mr. Emmons was not injured or in pain during or after the takedown. This video evidence is what made it an easy decision for the Supreme Court Justices to reverse the Ninth Circuits claims. In fact, the justices were puzzled over the claims that two officers should be charged with excessive force when the video clearly showed that only Officer Craig was responsible for the takedown. The District Court stated that the “video shows that the officers acted professionally and respectfully in their encounter” at the apartment. The District Court also clearly stated that there were no rules or laws stating that Officer Craig was not allowed to force the man to the ground in these circumstances. In this case, it is clear to see that the video evidence of the takedown is what kept Officer Craig out of jail as well as kept him from paying an excessive amount of money. Other officers have not been as lucky. In 2014, the famous Michael Brown shooting took place and Officer Wilson took the fall because there was no evidence to suggest that his actions were in self-defense because he did not have a body camera on. While Officer Wilson was not charged with anything he did have to resign from the force. Had he been wearing a body camera we would have a better understanding of what actually took place and if his actions were in self-defense or if the fight was based purely on racism. I think that maybe had Officer Wilson been wearing a body cam, we would have had a different story and we would have solid evidence that might have saved him his job. In the case of Escondido v. Emmons had the officers not been wearing body cameras, this story might have turned out differently. Officer Craig might not have been given immunity because without the evidence that clearly exonerated him they might not have come to their conclusion so easily. Fortunately, social media was not as popular back in 2013 as it is now so the case was most likely not too well known. But even if it had, I doubt it would have picked up a lot of traction. Mostly because it seems very clear that the officer was not in the wrong and that the cops were acting as they should in a high-risk call like domestic violence.

As stated previously, the final verdict in the case was that there was no clearly defined rule which stated that Officer Craig’s actions were out of line so therefore he was exonerated from all charges. This verdict was reached with the help of the body camera video evidence. I think that this verdict is very appropriate and it also shows that our justice system is still working and can still be objective. It also shows how effective body cameras are and how important it is that our law enforcement officers are equipped with them. The Supreme Court decision on this case was made this year, which just goes to show how long it can take for a case to finally be settled. What I find the most interesting is that this decision that the cop was not guilty in this case was that the opinion was per curiam. I found it very interesting that even justices who are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Justice Ginsberg and Justice Kavanaugh for example, can both agree on something when there is clear and factual evidence. IN my opinion, I find this trial to be perfectly fair and I also find it to be the correct outcome. Had the courts come to the decision of anything else I think that they would have come to the wrong conclusion. The video clearly shows that the officers were respectful at all times and that had Marty Emmons complied with the officer’s request this case would not have even happened. Even is he had closed the door, Officer Craig told him to get to the ground first before simply tackling him. The officer gave Emmons plenty of time to obey orders and he was simply doing his job in order to keep himself and the other officers safe. In a case like this, where the cops are called for domestic violence, they have no idea what they are walking into. They do not know if anyone is armed or even who his friend and foe. Officer Craig acted fast and acted correctly when Marty Emmons, someone they did not know, did not comply with the officer’s request. When this happened he became a potential threat and the only way to remove the threat was to take him to the ground. While this may seem like overkill to some think he made the right decision. Craig did not know whether or not the man was armed and did not want to take the risk of anyone getting hurt, so he did the next best thing, which was incapacitate the potential threat. I find the verdict to be appropriate because the officer was acting on instinct and even though he might have been fearing for his life, he still did it professionally.

Most police brutality cases end with a cop going to jail or at the very least paying a lot of money. The case was not unique but the officers handled it respectfully and professionally. The judges handled the case fairly and cleanly with no disputes. Officer Craig was doing his job and protecting his fellow officers with his quick thinking during a high-risk and high-stress job. Had he not done what he did who knows what could have happened. With this case, we get a glimpse of what an objective Supreme Court looks like as well as what a court that needs to shape up looks like. While our justice system hit the nail on the head with this one, many times the cops take the fall. While they may, in fact, be guilty it seems that we tend to blame cops a lot more than we thank them. What would make this case less controversial would be to have more cases resolved this as well as have our cities invest in body cameras for our police officers. Not only does it keep the citizens and officers safe, but they also help prove to be great pieces of evidence if another police brutality case was to arise. Many cases have gone south because of the lack of evidence to prove the cop was acting in self-defense or was provoked to action. With the assistance of body cameras, we will be able to keep more cops on the job and have less in prison. 

29 April 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now