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Lawyer, labor head debate over whether there's a trend of excessive force by police officers

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“An eerie pattern of excessive force” – that’s what a lawyer involved in three cases of police-involved deaths says is happening in West Michigan. The head of Michigan’s police union says there’s another trend

“I know for a fact it’s not every single officer but I also know for a fact we’ve seen it with three different officers in a very short period of time. Something’s up with that.”

Detroit-based attorney Ven Johnson represents the families of Samuel Sterling and Riley Doggett in separate cases.

Each died after being struck by police cruisers while fleeing from pursuing officers.

He’s also involved in the case of Patrick Lyoya who was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids Police officer trying to arrest him.

“Apparently folks over here in law enforcement – more than one – believe they are going to get away with it and use excessive force and that is a very dangerous thing anywhere.”

Johnson wants all videos and other evidence released publicly, saying transparency is the path to changes in policing.

“Cars are by definition deadly force. A gun to the head is deadly force. Under the law, if the officer can use any other force less than deadly to take care of the situation, that officer is legally obligated to use that other force.”

James Tignanelli is the President of the Police Officers Association of Michigan.

“Nobody that pulls over when the red lights go on gets chased. Nobody that stays safely in their car gets run over. Nobody that keeps their hands where they can be seen is assumed to be presenting a danger to the officers.”

He says the trend is not officers wanting to use excessive force, but rather more people willing to resist arrest and assault officers in the process.

“We had between 50-60,000 officers physically assaulted each year since 2020. Is that
trend going up? Yes.”

An FBI report released this week shows the rate of assaults on law enforcement officers reached a 10-year high in 2023 with more than 79,000 officer-attacks reported.

Tignanelli blames weaker laws.

"The consequences of lawbreaking have been lowered to such a standard that more people are willing to resist because they just think its ok. A guy that resisted arrest like that in the past was a guy that was bad dude. Now it’s a guy that was speeding. It’s gone crazy.”

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