Police officers are given positions of tremendous trust in our society, so it can be especially disconcerting to have that trust violated by an incident of police misconduct. Police misconduct can take several forms, including excessive force, unlawful arrest, or disregard of constitutional rights such as probable cause and due process. No matter exactly how police misconduct comes about though, it’s important to hold police officers accountable for their actions and the high standards of conduct that come along with wearing a law enforcement uniform.
What to Do if You Suspect Police Misconduct
The first step in pursuing a complaint for police misconduct is to document everything that is occurring. It’s important to remember that there is no Illinois or federal law that prevents you from recording the police in public, so you may use a cell phone to document any police contact, regardless of what an officer tells you. If you do not have access to a camera for some reason, then it is important to write down everything that occurred during your encounter with the police as soon as possible after it happened. You can refer back to this document while pursuing your complaint or a lawsuit.
Every police department has its own procedures for investigating police misconduct. You will have to contact the department to determine their own process. Unfortunately, because this is a completely internal process run by police themselves who often have their own motivations for not hurting the image of the department, it can be very difficult to have a complaint validated this way. For example, one study found that between 2002 and 2004, of 10,149 complaints of excessive force, illegal searches, false arrest and racial prejudice against Chicago police, only 1.2 percent of internal complaints were sustained, and only 19 total cases resulted in any disciplinary action taken against an officer.
Filing a Police Misconduct Lawsuit
If the police do not act on an internal complaint, you still have other options to pursue compensation for a police misconduct complaint. The state’s attorney’s office may file criminal charges, but again, this is often a dead end. However, retaining a private attorney in a civil case can often hold police accountable. Civil cases require a lower standard of evidentiary proof, and so it can be easier to show a jury that injuries or other civil rights violations were caused by police misconduct. Officers involved in an accident will be required to testify at depositions and at trial. In addition, a civil lawsuit is the only way to receive any sort of financial compensation from a municipality for the devastating results of police misconduct.
Need Legal Help?
No one should have to worry about their rights being violated when they interact with police in Chicago, or any other part of the state. But if you believe that law enforcement officers have violated your civil rights, there are ways to use the legal system to ensure you are fairly compensated for police misconduct. For more information, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.