Many people expect an interaction with a police officer to proceed as intended — you speak with the officer, comply with requests and go about your day. However, sometimes officers breach their public service duty and infringe on an individual’s rights during the encounter.
This may qualify as police misconduct, and the officer and/or their department can be held accountable for the behavior. In order to make a successful report, you must first understand the steps to take.
Who Can Report Misconduct By Law Enforcement?
It is a common misconception that only the person directly affected by the police officer’s misconduct can report it. While it is true that you yourself can report misconduct by law enforcement if you were the victim, you may also report if you were a witness. If you were a victim or you were present to witness misconduct at the hands of a law enforcement officer, you have options for reporting.
Start By Creating Thorough Documentation
The first step in reporting police misconduct is to thoroughly write down everything that you can remember. It is all right if you did not notice or can no longer remember seemingly “vital” details such as the officer’s badge number or the license plate number of the patrol car. These details can be gathered later if you can provide the time, location of the event and physical description of the officer.
The best practice here is to write down everything that you remember, no matter how seemingly minuscule or unimportant. It will not be clear until later which details are critical to the case, so document everything that you can.
However, avoid exaggeration or statements of judgment, and note instances in which you are unsure of the exact details. If you pass off potentially inaccurate information, you may undermine your own credibility.
If you can remember conversations, do your best to write them down word for word. Be as specific as possible without embellishing details. If other witnesses were present, document their appearance and as much additional information about them as you know.
Seek Legal Assistance From A Professional
The next step after writing down everything that you remember is to seek legal advice from an attorney specializing in civil rights violations. If you were arrested as part of the engagement in which the police misconduct occurred, an attorney is vital to your success; if you were not arrested, a lawyer is still highly recommended.
A legal professional can help you to determine whether you have a case and may be able to shield you from the complex and confusing process of being forcefully prosecuted by the police in order to gain the upper hand and curb a misconduct case.
Proving that police misconduct occurred can be a challenge, which is why the case is typically best left to a legal professional who works in this field rather than tackling it on your own. If your evidence is strong and thorough, you may have a better chance.
Strategically File A Report For Police Misconduct
Your first intuition after the event may be to file a police report for the misconduct; however, be strategic in how you approach this. Your attorney can guide you in this process. If you were not charged with a crime or are not suing the department, you may file a report right away.
However, if you are bringing civil or criminal actions against the police department for the officer’s misconduct, then filing a police report early on can reveal what information you have about the incident and is a valuable tool that the police can use to fight your case.
In this situation, you may be better off waiting until weeks to months later to file a police report; your legal representative can offer guidance on when is the best time to file a police report so that your case remains strong and you do not inadvertently give the police department the upper hand in your case.
Work With A Civil Rights Attorney
Whether you have been the victim of police misconduct yourself or you were a witness to a law enforcement officer whose behavior infringed on the civil rights of others, reporting police misconduct is a critical part of keeping your community and its residents safe.
The Brown Firm would be happy to assist you with tackling a police misconduct case, filing the correct paperwork and strategically approaching the process so that you have the best chance of success. Reach out to schedule a consultation so that you can hold the law enforcement officer and his or her department accountable for the infringing behavior.