If you have been involved in an altercation or confrontation with the police in California, whether or not you have a case will depend on the specific circumstances of the incident.
In California, there are over 78,000 law enforcement officers, and on average, about 80 of them are arrested each year. Assault is the most common reason for these arrests.
While this may seem like a small number, it’s important to note that data on arrested officers do not capture the full range of police misconduct. For example, many instances of police misconduct may go unreported or may not result in an arrest.
To put this in perspective, if we assume that there are 78,000 law enforcement officers in California and that each officer works an average of 250 days per year, that means there are a total of 19.5 million officer workdays in California each year. With about 80 officers arrested each year, that works out to approximately one arrest for every 243,750 officer workdays.
While this may seem like a low rate, any instance of police misconduct is cause for concern. It’s important to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their actions and to work towards creating a system that is fair and just for all members of the community.
Here are some general steps you can take to assess whether you have a case. As always, the number one suggestion is to contact a civil rights attorney. But read this information first to better understand what to prepare and what you’ll talk about.
Document the incident
Documentation is a crucial step in any legal case. If you have been involved in an any situation with the police where you feel you have been mistreated, injured and/or had your rights infringed upon – it’s important to write down everything you can remember about the incident, including the date, time, location, and names of any police officers involved.
You should also note any witnesses who were present and any injuries or damage to your property. And absolutely keep any documentation regarding injuries and how the situation played out.
Excessive force and shootings happen more often than you think. In one report, the California Department of Justice cited about 1,487 incidents of officer-involved shootings in California between 2015 and 2019. Additionally, in 2019 along, there were 174 complaints of excessive force against law enforcement officers in the state. As time has passed, the situation has become more common around the country.
Also note that documentation means more than writing. It also means taking photographs or video footage of any injuries or damage to your property can also be helpful. In California, you have the right to record police officers in public places as long as you do not interfere with their duties.
Get medical attention
If you were injured during the altercation, seeking medical attention is crucial. Even if you feel fine immediately after the incident, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. This will create a record of your injuries that can be used as evidence in a case.
As we said previously, about 80 officers are arrested each year with assault being the most common reason for arrest. Injury by way of an altercation with a police officer can lead to serious injury very easily as all statistics show.
Consult with an attorney
According to a report by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, there are 17 civilian oversight agencies in California that oversee law enforcement agencies. These agencies are tasked with investigating complaints of police misconduct and can provide a valuable resource for individuals who have been involved in an altercation with the police.
Consulting with an experienced civil rights, malicious prosecutions and police brutality attorney, however, is crucial if you believe you have a case. An attorney can review your case, advise you on the strength of your claim, and guide you through the legal process. In California, there are many attorneys who specialize in cases involving police misconduct or excessive force.
File a complaint
Over a thousand complaints are accepted out of the five thousand complaints submitted every year against police departments. That number is staggering when you consider that the law enforcement organizations are notorious for protecting their own.
If you believe that your rights were violated during the altercation, you can file a complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or the civilian oversight committee in your city. This will initiate an investigation into the incident.
But consulting an attorney is essentially regardless. Many cases won by civil rights attorney had started out with internal reviews that showed no wrongdoing. In our famous case where we worked with the Anthony Soderberg estate, his murder was deemed appropriate by an internal investigation. And yet, we went on to win over one million dollars on behalf of his estate.
Consider filing a lawsuit
If you believe that your rights were violated and you have suffered damages as a result of the altercation, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the police department. An attorney can help you assess whether this is a viable option for you.