The Golden State shines bright in many ways, but unfortunately, not all experiences with law enforcement officers are positive and can cast a shadow of doubt over what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s very possible that in this day and age that you or someone you know has been a victim of some sort of police misconduct. And if not, then you very likely have heard or seen it through social media. If that were to happen to you, what would you do?
Well, let’s look at a couple of options that we have and see how best to report police misconduct. Remember, you can skip this, and simply chat with an experienced law firm like us and get the information pertinent to your case in particular in just a few minutes. What’s more, the call is free.
With that said, let’s discuss the who, what, when, where, and why of all things related to reporting police misconduct in California.
What Qualifies as Police Misconduct in California
First off, what counts as police misconduct? Believe it or not, as prevalent as it is, it’s pretty ample in terms of what falls under it. It could range from excessive use of force, discriminatory actions, or wrongful arrests, to misuse of authority, harassment, retaliation and, even, homicide in some cases.
The case of George Floyd’s arrest and death was a tragic event that brought to light, once again, the many injustices many people can be exposed to when dealing with law enforcement. The country as a whole has had a tenuous grasp on how to approach civil matters without upsetting one half of its residents or the other. That being said, it’s not up to you to analyze your case from a sociological standpoint, but instead you need to know what is best for you. If an officer’s actions seem unethical, improper, or illegal, it’s possible that you may be dealing with some form of misconduct. There really is no way to tell other than by reporting it or, even better, talking to an attorney about it first. Here is a list with easy to understand explanations:
- Excessive Force: When a cop goes too far, using more force than needed, which can cause harm or even death.
- Discrimination: When a police officer treats someone differently based on their race, religion, or any other personal characteristic.
- False Arrest: When you’re held by the police without a good reason or without the right legal paperwork.
- Coercion: The act of forcing someone to do something they don’t want to, often through threats or pressure.
- Harassment: Consistently bothering someone, making them feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- Verbal Abuse: Using harmful or offensive language, which can sometimes happen alongside harassment or excessive force. This one is harder to present a case for in itself but can be valuable to build context.
- Sexual Misconduct: Unwanted or inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature.
- Retaliation: Punishing someone because they filed a complaint or were involved in a complaint against the police.
- Failure to Intervene: When a cop present doesn’t stop another cop from going overboard with their force.
- Illegal Search and Seizure: Looking through someone’s stuff without the proper legal reasons or taking their belongings without a good reason.
- Tampering with Evidence: Changing, planting, or getting rid of evidence related to a crime.
- Perjury: Telling lies when they’ve sworn to tell the truth during a court case or on official documents.
- Misuse of Authority: Using their badge for personal gain or to take advantage of others.
- Violation of Due Process: Denying someone their legal rights, like the right to talk to a lawyer or the right to stay quiet.
Reporting Law Enforcement Misconduct in California
So let’s get into it and talk about the process of reporting these incidents of police misconduct. In California, the first step is usually to file a complaint with the law enforcement agency itself. It’s MANDATORY that every law enforcement agency provides a platform and/or method to report any sort of misconduct.
Each agency generally has its own procedures, so it’s best to check their website or call their office for specifics. You can request an officer’s badge number and name during the encounter, and jot down any notes such as time, details and location.
For example, for the LAPD you can visit: https://www.lapdonline.org/information-on-how-to-file-a-complaint/
At the time of this article, they have received 100 calls and 180 emails, there are a total of 57 complaint investigations, with 27 involving alleged uses of force, and seven employees have been assigned to non-field duties. And while you can call 1-800-339-6868 to report your situation, we highly recommend that you reach out to us first.
We’ll walk you through the process and help you understand if your argument and/or case has any merit. Keep in mind that officers are not obligated by any sort of civil or federal law to identify themselves and that policies regarding that can vary from city to city. Don’t trust YouTube or your own research, talk to an attorney. We repeat this a lot because people often underestimate the importance of this advice.
DOJ and Other Civil Rights Support
In addition to filing a complaint with the local agency, you can also file a report with the California Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ investigates complaints of police misconduct, particularly when it comes to civil rights violations. Just a little bit of advice, their focus is more on the bigger picture regarding civil rights and their primary goal is to find larger patterns of abuse as opposed to focusing on individual instances of abuse. While this may be helpful, it won’t be as helpful as seeking legal consultation from attorneys.
Remember, your voice matters, but it’s not the only tool you have. FlexYourRights.org emphasizes the importance of video recording during encounters with the police. In California, it’s generally legal to record the police in public as long as you aren’t interfering with their duties. These recordings can serve as crucial evidence when reporting misconduct.
Time is of the Essence
Once you’ve decided to report, don’t delay and, instead, try to act promptly. Memory is unreliable, it’s all about what you can and cannot prove in a court of law. Many departments have a time limit for filing complaints. If too much time passes, the department might not investigate your complaint.
One other note, keep in mind that while suffering through any sort of discomfort or disrespect is not a pleasant experience, discomfort and disrespect is rarely, if ever, enough to build a proper case against the city. Any sort of police misconduct needs evidence, damages, clear violations of your rights and proper documentation regarding your experience.
To wrap up, standing up against police misconduct is most definitely a vital part of maintaining accountability and integrity within our law enforcement agencies and a protection for us as citizens that are subject to their work and proceedings.. It might seem like a daunting task, but resources are available, and you are not alone in this process. We take on consultations free of charge and will tell you outright if we believe that you have a case or not.
Remember: your voice, your rights, your power – use them for justice.