We’re taught from a young age to contact the police if our rights have been violated. But who can we rely on when it’s the police themselves who do the violating?
Police brutality has been a hot-button topic of late, and while any event involving harm is tragic, the issue is helping to shed light on how to handle a case of police misconduct. You are not alone if you have faced this frightening situation. Remember, though specially trained and usually reliable, law enforcement officers are still human and still prone to human mistakes and vices.
These are your three best options when faced with calling the police on the police. Your best bet with any of these is to find a good police brutality attorney first, who can then guide you safely through the process.
Internal Affairs Complaints
This is the “ideal” path, the proper course in a perfect world. All police departments have protocol for taking complaints about officers. Larger police departments will have their own division for investigating complaints, but either way it comes down to police investigating their coworkers.
This is the only method that could reliably lead to discipline of the officer in question, besides a criminal conviction. The complaint will stay in the officer’s record, even if nothing comes of it, so repeat offenders cannot hide their past transgressions.
Unfortunately, “internal” means you will not receive any information until the investigation is over. You won’t be involved in the investigation at all, most likely. This also makes it far too easy for more corrupt or PR-concerned departments to prioritize covering for themselves rather than actually pursuing justice.
Again, in an ideal world, this would not be an issue. But, in an deal world, we would not need police brutality attorneys at all.
Before pursuing this option, you must know: filing a complaint means you give up your right to remain silent if you yourself are facing criminal charges. While your involvement in the investigation is minimal, you still must discuss the incident with the police department. Speak with your lawyer to determine the best route.
If an officer himself violates the law, such as using unnecessary force, then you can file a criminal complaint with the state district court or, since excessive force is a federal civil rights violation, even with the FBI (though this method is rarely picked up by federal prosecutors).
This option tends to work more in your favor if the case is very clearly one of brutality. The fact is that courts tend to favor police officers even when accused of themselves breaking the law. It takes a skilled police brutality attorney to fight for a satisfactory conviction and sentence.
This is when you and your police brutality attorney outright sue the offending officer. the support and legal advice of a dedicated lawyer can be tremendously comforting in such a difficult time.
In a civil suit, you lawyer handles most of the procedures. Usually civil suits involve a settlement of money, so you’ll want to discuss further with your attorney if you wish to seek to further discipline the offending party.