Appeals court upholds verdict against Boston cop for slamming guy's head to the pavement during traffic stop
A federal appeals court today agreed with a jury that Boston Officer Jamie Pietroski used excessive force in 2002 during an arrest of a motorcyclist who didn't stop when Pietroski turned on his blue lights to make him pull over for failing to wear a helmet.
The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said that while Pietroski had probable cause to pull Matthew Raiche over after spotting him in Brigham Circle, he had absolutely no justification for pulling him off his motorcycle and twice slamming his head into the sidewalk, let alone for destroying Raiche's motorcyle.
Pietroski sought to have the verdict overturned and a new trial ordered on the grounds that, as a police officer, he had immunity from the suit because he was performing his duty. But the appeals court said pulling Raiche off his bike when he was just sitting there - he said he did not realize the officers were after him and thought they just wanted him to move out of their way - and throwing him around violated not only the Constitution but Boston Police policies on dealing with arrests, especially given the relatively minor nature of the offenses:
We sympathize with the challenging work of police officers, which often forces them 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." Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. However, we do not find such circumstances here. An objectively reasonable police officer would have believed that tackling Raiche from his motorcycle and slamming him into the pavement would violate his constitutional right to be free from excessive force.
Barring an appeal, the ruling means Pietroski will have to pay Raiche the $2,500 awarded by the jury.