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Reporting a Police Officer for Misconduct: Steps to Take

This content about police misconduct was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

Though most officers are committed to doing their job responsibly and ethically, there seems to be an epidemic of excessive use of force and other types of misconduct across police departments in the US. It shouldn’t be the case for citizens or minorities to fear police officers, but after continuous evidence and cases of police misconduct have come to light in recent months, it’s important to know what to keep in mind when reporting a police officer for misconduct in California.

There are several steps you can take before actually reporting a police officer for misconduct. It’s important to take your time to approach these steps as they are crucial parts of the process.

1. Write down everything you can remember

The smallest detail may make a difference when reporting a police officer for misconduct, so make sure to write down as much as you can recall regarding the incident as soon as possible. Try to describe everything that transpired from the very start of the encounter with the officer until the very end. Make sure to use exact words when quoting the officer or yourself. Also, remember to include key information such as the location, time, context, police officer’s name, etc.

If possible, include the contact information of any witnesses. It may also be helpful to return to the place where the misconduct occurred to see if you can talk to any additional witnesses or to see if any details come back to mind. Make sure to only include facts you remember, distorting facts can undermine your credibility.

2. Talk to an attorney

Before reporting a police officer for misconduct, it can be very useful and reassuring to get some expert advice from an attorney. It’s an especially recommendable step if you were arrested after the encounter since your attorney can ask the court to exclude evidence that was found during the misconduct incident.

Make sure to hire an attorney who specializes in police misconduct cases, as these are challenging to prove, so don’t settle for anything less than an experienced professional. An attorney can help you figure out if you wish to file a civil lawsuit or if the evidence you have makes for a strong case. In California, you can file a Section 1983 lawsuit, which is a civil rights lawsuit that can grant you monetary damages or an injunction.

3. Reporting a police officer for misconduct with the department

Knowing when to file a police misconduct report is essential if you plan to pursue a civil action or criminal charges. If you file it prematurely, you may be revealing valuable information to the police. However, if you weren’t arrested and aren’t planning on filing a civil action, file the complaint as soon as you can.

Remember to gather the information from the first step as this will be the body of the complaint when reporting a police officer for misconduct. In some cases, this complaint may lead to the officer being fired, suspended, and reprimanded or being reassigned to another area within their department.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.