Being a police officer today is one of the toughest jobs there is. Most officers go into law enforcement for the right reasons and carry out their responsibilities without incident. But unfortunately, a small percentage of officers abuse their power and mistreat the very citizens they have sworn to serve and protect. Police misconduct is a serious breach of public trust that should never go unchecked.
What Is Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct is a broad term that can include a wide variety of abuses and wrongdoing by law enforcement officers. Often, we envision police brutality – the unnecessary or excessive use of force – when we think about police misconduct. Although that is a serious and troubling problem in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States, there are many other forms of police misconduct.
Shockingly, the second most common complaint against police, behind police brutality, is sexual misconduct. Every year, there are dozens of reports across the country of officers who coerce sex from frightened victims under explicit or implied threats of arrest or physical violence. Sadly, it is believed that many more of those incidents go unreported.
Police theft is another of the most common reported types of police misconduct. This can take the form of bribery or extortion if an officer demands payment or property from a citizen who fears arrest.
Other common types of police misconduct include false arrest and unreasonable search and seizure, which occur when officers arrest a citizen or search a citizen’s home, car or other property without probable cause.
Some police officers have also been known to coerce confessions, falsify evidence, lie in court or destroy evidence that could exonerate a suspect. At its worst, this can result in wrongful conviction of an innocent person.
What Actions Can Victims of Police Misconduct Take?
Police officers are human, and no one expects them to be perfect. But when law enforcement officials knowingly abuse their power, citizens should not be silent. A person who has been the victim of police misconduct may sue the officer or officers individually, as well as the government agency that employs them.
Pennsylvania state law addresses some forms of police misconduct, but most lawsuits involving police misconduct are filed under federal civil rights law. Plaintiffs can collect damages including lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, injury to reputation and, in some cases, punitive damages.
Talk to An Experienced Police Misconduct Lawyer
As citizens, we entrust police officers with a tremendous amount of authority for the sake of public safety. When they violate that trust, they should be held accountable. If you’ve been the victim of police misconduct, you need to consult an experienced civil rights attorney about how to right this serious wrong and pursue appropriate compensation.