How to React to and Report Police Misconduct
- November 2, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on How to React to and Report Police Misconduct
Reporting Police Misconduct in Texas
Misconduct by law enforcement officers is a major topic of concern in Texas and throughout the country. Cases involving apparently unjustified uses of force by police officers have been appearing very frequently in media reports over the past several years. In addition, claims of police misbehavior in such activities as illegal searches and profiling have been rising in number.
What should you do if you suspect that you are the victim of police misconduct in Texas? How should you behave in a situation where a police officer is behaving illegally? Read on to find out more about this serious issue.
What Is Police Misconduct?
Misconduct by a police officer can include a wide range of activities and behaviors. To put it briefly, police misconduct is any action that a police officer takes which is against the law or against their regulations while they are on duty.
For example, police misconduct can include actions like:
- Unnecessary use of force
- Arrests or questioning based on race, ethnicity or religion
- Denial of a person’s rights (denial of an attorney, denial of right to avoid self-incrimination)
- Searches and seizures without probable cause or a warrant
It can sometimes be difficult to spot police misconduct. For example, if a police officer stops and questions a person belonging to an ethnic minority, they may be doing so because of racial profiling. However, they could also be stopping to question the person to find out about a crime that occurred nearby, regardless of their race.
The most important thing to remember is that you have rights and if you suspect those rights have been violated, there are steps that you can take in response.
How To React To Police Misconduct
In any encounter with law enforcement, it’s important to behave in a particular way. Almost all encounters with police will be legal and will not involve misconduct. When stopped or questioned by a police officer, always:
- Remain calm
- Cooperate with the officer’s requests
- Do not fight or resist arrest
Even if you suspect a police officer of misconduct, it’s important to remain calm. Becoming angry or agitated can cause a bad situation to become much worse. If you begin shouting at a police officer and accusing them of misconduct, you may be maced, tasered and arrested.
Do your best to remain calm and cooperate. If you are asked to state your business and provide identification, do so. Remember, you do not have to provide any information that could potentially incriminate you. However, if you refuse to provide certain information, a police officer may become suspicious, giving them grounds to search your person or your vehicle.
If you are at home when a police officer attempts to question you, you do not have to let them in if they do not provide a warrant. However, you should still be calm and courteous and cooperate as much as possible.
To put it simply, you cannot do yourself any good by engaging in activities that can get you tasered, arrested and charged with additional crimes. You can fight for your rights in a courtroom with the help of an attorney.
How To Report Police Misconduct
If you suspect that you have been the victim of police misconduct, the best thing that you can do is to be a great witness. This means that you should do everything you can to remember important information about the event and then report it later.
Pay attention to as much as you can. For example, pay attention to:
- The officer’s statements and behavior
- Any requests that the officer makes
- When, where and why the encounter occurred
The more that you can remember, the better. You may be able to use this information later to help corroborate your story.
If you are the victim of misconduct and you are not arrested, you should get home safely and quickly and begin recording all of the events while they are still fresh in your memory. When you have recorded them, contact an attorney immediately.
If you are arrested, refuse to provide any answers to police questioning unless an attorney is present. If you are jailed, request an attorney as soon as possible. If you are released, record the events as best you remember them and then contact an attorney immediately.
Remember, it can be difficult to prove police misconduct in some cases. You will stand a far better chance in court if you appear to be a credible witness to the events. Don’t engage in any activities that could compromise your appearance in court.
File An Official Complaint
Once you have been released and consulted with an attorney, you can begin to plan the next step. If you were charged with a crime, you may have to wait until your case is resolved before you can file a formal complaint. This is why it’s so important to record the details of the suspected misconduct. If you were not charged, you can file an official complaint right away.
Consult with an attorney and ask them about the complaint filing procedure in your jurisdiction. There is likely an official process for filing police complaints in your city or county. An attorney can advise you on this matter and help you prepare the official paperwork.
Do not engage in any criminal activities during the filing process and do not discuss your case with anyone except your lawyer. If you have to go to the police station to pick up paperwork, be respectful and do not mention details of your case. Send the complaint by certified mail and make several copies of the complaint. Keep these copies in secure locations where they cannot be damaged or lost.
After some time, your complaint can be processed by the local courts. This can take a long time so remain patient. There is no guarantee that the police office will face any disciplinary action based on your complaint. However, your complaint may be used in future cases against an officer if they engage in misconduct again.
If your rights have been violated, you can take action. You may be helping to protect yourself and your fellow citizens from future police misconduct.