Supreme Court: Police Knee in Back During Arrest Not 'Excessive Force'

Supreme Court: Police Knee in Back During Arrest Not 'Excessive Force'

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday in favor of a California police officer who was accused of using “excessive force” during an arrest, reversing the liberal Ninth Circuit appeals court on an issue at the center of the “defund the police” movement.

Union City, California, police officer Daniel Rivas-Villegas responded to a 911 call from “a crying 12-year-old girl reporting that she, her mother, and her 15 year-old sister had shut themselves into a room at their home because her mother’s boyfriend, Cortesluna, was trying to hurt them and had a chainsaw,” The Court explains in a per curiam opinion.

“The girl told the operator that Cortesluna was ‘always drinking,’ had ‘anger issues,’ was ‘really mad,’ and was using the chainsaw to ‘break something in the house,'” The Supreme Court added.

After Rivas-Villegas arrived to the scene with four other officers, one officer asked whether the girl and her family were able to exit the house, to which dispatch said they “were unable to get out,” adding that the 911 operator had “hear[d] sawing in the background,” and thought that Cortesluna might be trying to saw down the door.

Rivas-Villegas and the other officers then proceeded to command Cortesluna come outside and “‘get down'” onto the ground, the Court said in its summary judgement.

Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman says he rejects the “defund the police” movement because police are necessary, and most officers are doing a good job. https://t.co/DizE2FO9PG

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 10, 2021

“Officers saw a knife in Cortesluna’s left pocket,” The Supreme Court explained. “While Rivas-Villegas and another officer were in the process of removing the knife and handcuffing Cortesluna, Rivas-Villegas briefly placed his knee on the left side of Cortesluna’s back.”

“Rivas-Villegas was in this position for no more than eight seconds before standing up while continuing to hold Cortesluna’s arms,” the Court said. “At that point, another officer, who had just removed the knife from Cortesluna’s pocket and tossed it away, came and handcuffed Cortesluna’s hands behind his back.”

Cortesluna later sued the officer, claiming “that Rivas-Villegas used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

That is a reference to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court has long explained the Fourth Amendment is the constitutional provision that governs encounters with police officers.

The Court added that while the federal district court covering that part of California granted summary judgment to Rivas-Villegas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.

Alana Mastrangelo