We’re all told as children that if something bad has happened then you need to tell a police officer. But what do you do if the police officer is bad? Reporting police misconduct can be scary and difficult. Your integrity may be questioned. You might even get harassed. But reporting misconduct is the first step toward fighting back against corrupt law enforcement. Here is what you need to know.
Regardless of if you’re arrested or not, or if you plan to sue or not, you will need to provide evidence. As soon as you are able to do so, write down what happened in your own words. Try to remember as many details as possible. If you are unsure of something, leave it out or try to get more information from witnesses.
If you need to quote someone, try to make it as accurate as possible. Include a physical description of the police officer. If you have access to them, record the officer’s badge numbers and car numbers, but if you don’t have these then a description, location, and time of day can pinpoint the responsible officer. Also, date and time your own records so others can know when you wrote your testimony.
Take the evidence you have collected and look for a lawyer in your area that specializes in police misconduct cases. If you have written things down beforehand, you’ll set yourself apart from others who come in complaining of a problem. Lawyers in this area have to take cases based on the strength of evidence, and not how badly the victim was treated.
Your lawyer will be able to determine whether or not you have a good case. If you do, they will advise you on your next steps. Police misconduct cases are often taken on contingency, so you won’t have to pay anything unless you win your case. Even if you don’t plan to sue, a lawyer can tell you who you need to contact to file a formal complaint and how your evidence could bolster that complaint.
If you’ve been arrested, you should seek the help of a criminal defense lawyer regardless, but they may also be interested in your testimony about police misconduct. However, it is better to hire a specialist in this area.
If you plan on suing, hold off on filing your complaint until after the criminal and civil cases are over. If you file a complaint too early, the police can use that information to build their own case. But if you don’t plan on suing or your case is too weak to go to court you can still file a complaint.
Each state will have different rules for reporting police misconduct. If you have talked with a lawyer, they should be able to tell you where to go to file your complaint and where to get official forms, if necessary. If you have to go into the station or call to get copies, do not reveal information about your incident. Ask for the forms and leave.
You should also make photocopies of your complaint to keep for yourself. If you feel there was a civil rights violation, you can also contact groups like the ACLU or the NAACP to see if they would be interested in your story.
You might get a response after a long time or never get one. Do not worry. These reports stay in the record. Over time, your complaint along with others can prove a pattern of misconduct that can lead to positive change.
If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact The Cochran Firm. We will be glad to assist you.
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