As a noted personal injury attorney serving Indianapolis, our firm partner Stephen Wagner is frequently asked to share his opinion on high-profile cases, both in the news and in educational settings. Recently, the Indianapolis Star published a piece on the recent police brutality case involving an officer at Shortridge High School. As part of the story, the Star interviewed Attorney Wagner.
The article explains that some Indianapolis police officers are not criminally charged when they use excessive force – even in clear cases of police brutality and abuse of minors. Contrary to this normal pattern, the Star reports that Officer Robert Lawson was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony false reporting after video footage showed him brutally punching a 17-year-old boy at Shortridge High School.
This is a rarity. Since 2011, only six officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have been charged with a crime related to excessive force on duty, and only four have been officially convicted for their crimes. Although the prosecutors’ office has reported bringing charges against 78 different law enforcement officers in that time period, most of these were for off-the-clock incidents, or against officers in other agencies outside the police department.
When looking at the conviction data, it’s clear that law enforcement is selective about which cases they prosecute for on-duty officers, choosing only those that gain viral social media attention or have clear video evidence of brutality. Notably, Indianapolis prosecutors declined to charge an officer for body-slamming an unarmed teenager in 2016, and then again declined to charge two officers for the 2017 shooting of unarmed Aaron Bailey.
As Attorney Stephen Wagner commented in the article, “It is a rare occurrence and it has to be pretty egregious… It’s hard to understand why charges are brought in some cases and not others.”
At Wagner Reese, Attorney Wagner and our other experienced attorneys have represented many families who have suffered losses due to police brutality. We know firsthand the devastating toll that this form of violence can take. When the prosecutors’ office fails to bring adequate charges, we provide families with an alternative route to justice: Filing a civil lawsuit against the officer who committed the crime. In many cases, this allows the victims and their families to recover funding for their past injuries and trauma, as well as account for their future needs.
Call (888) 204-8440 today to contact our team and request a free consultation.