Free Consultation


(215) 458-2222


Pepper Spray – Can It Constitute Police Brutality?

Court of Appeals Says Pepper Spray Can Constitute Excessive Force

Police task force

During the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, police used pepper spray on a 23-year-old demonstrator who was trying to get into a Starbucks to use the bathroom. The woman, Imami Brown, filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in June, 2015, alleging that NYPD officers arrested her without cause and used excessive force. The federal district court threw out the lawsuit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the ruling on the excessive force claim.

According to Brown’s lawsuit, she approached the Starbucks at approximately 5 am on the morning of November 15, 2011, and knocked on the door (which was locked), asking if she could use the bathroom. An employee inside the coffee shop called police and when they arrived, Brown asked them if they knew where she might find a bathroom. She says that the officers asked for her ID, and when she refused to show it to them, grabbed her by the arm, shoved her to the ground, and accused her of resisting. She was then pepper-sprayed twice before she held out her hands to be handcuffed. A videotape of the incident shows one of the officers kicking her legs out from under her, even though she was already in handcuffs.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals focused on what Brown’s attorney called “lack of courtesy” toward his client. The court wrote that “even on the officers’ version of the events, the arrest, the ensuing scuffle and this lawsuit could very likely have been avoided if the police had explained to Brown why they were asking for her ID.”

If You Have Been The Victim of Police Brutality Contact Fritz, Goldenberg & Bianculli

To set up a free initial consultation, call our office at (215) 458-2222 or send us an e-mail. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged, if necessary.