Seventh Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Officer in Use of Force Claim

December 19, 2019

The Seventh Circuit in Johnson v. Rogers, No. 19-1366 (7th Cir. 2019), recently held that a police officer’s use of force was a reasonable attempt to gain control, even though it resulted in a serious injury. After arrest, the plaintiff told police that he would run away. He was handcuffed and sat on the pavement. The second time the arrestee stood up, the officer pulled him by his cuffed hands and conducted a leg sweep. The arrestee fell and suffered a compound fracture of one leg. The District Court ruled in favor of the officer on qualified immunity grounds and pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which bars any claim which contradicts the facts underlying an arrestee’s criminal conviction. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the holding under Heck but affirmed the District Court’s finding that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. The Court held that the officer’s use of force was an attempt to regain control and was objectively reasonable, meaning that it did not violate the arrestee’s Fourth Amendment rights.  The fact that the force used resulted in serious injury does not make the use of force unreasonable.

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