In re Anderson S. (1st Dist.) 2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3738

Excessive Use of Force

Witness (W) saw juvenile trying to open neighbor’s doors and then saw him enter garage. W called police. When they arrived, juvenile fled. After announcement and also realizing that he could not overtake the juvenile, the handler released the PSD. Juvenile ran around a corner and out of sight of the handler. When handler rounded the corner, PSD was biting juvenile. Juvenile broke free and ran another 50 yards before PSD brought him down. Juvenile, despite orders to show his hands and stop resisting, was holding his hands underneath his body. Handler used a distraction blow with flashlight which cause juvenile to allow handler and another officer handcuffs on juvenile. At that point, PSD removed from the bite. Handler testified he was worried that a juvenile involved in a first degree burglary who would not show his hands could be armed.

Juvenile claimed on appeal that the officers used excessive force. To prove obstructing or resisting arrest, the People have to prove that LE was engaged in the performance of their duties and acting in a lawful manner at the time. If LE was acting with excessive force, then that element is not proved.

Claims that LE used excessive force in effecting an arrest are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s objective reasonableness (as outlined in Graham v. Connor) standard. “The reasonableness test requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including:

  1. the severity of the crime at issue;
  2. whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others; and
  3. whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”

Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers, violates the Fourth Amendment. The court should take into account that officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

The court held that the blow with the flashlight was not excessive force because handler was alone at the time of the blow and did not have control of juvenile’s hands and juvenile was suspected of just burglarizing a residence where weapons could have been taken. In addition, handler called the PSD off immediately after juvenile was brought under control.