We entrust our police force with powers not available to other members of the community. In the lawful exercise of their duties, police officers may physically restrain another individual and even cause physical injury and property damage. Law enforcement officers are immune from lawsuits unless their actions can be shown to be willful and unreasonable. An officer who goes beyond the limits of his authority may be in violation of the law, police department regulations, and the U.S. Constitution. When the police exceed their authority and affect the rights of others, they may be liable for police misconduct. Victims of police misconduct may seek civil rights remedies as well as other damages under federal and state law.
Types of Police Misconduct
Police misconduct is a fairly broad concept that may include a variety of willful and unreasonable behaviors. In general, it arises from conduct that is unconstitutional, unethical, illegal, or in violation of departmental guidelines. At its most severe, police misconduct may involve police brutality that causes serious injury or even death. Other instances of police misconduct may include:
- Sexual abuse of a suspect.
- Falsifying evidence: this may consist of planting evidence at a crime scene or making up false witness statements.
- False arrest/malicious prosecution: this occurs when police officers place a person in custody who they know to be innocent.
- Coercing false confessions.
- Racial profiling.
- Surveillance abuse.
- Police drug or alcohol abuse.
- Unlawful use of law enforcement databases for purposes of cyber-stalking and e-mail hacking.
- Failure to Intervene: police officers are obligated to protect citizens from constitutional violations committed by fellow officers. Officers who witness such misconduct and fail to intervene may be liable to the victim for damages.
Police misconduct is not always easy to prove. A lawsuit for this type of behavior should be filed by an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. Mere negligence or the failure to exercise due care will not be enough to hold an officer liable for police misconduct.
Contact An Attorney
If you or a loved one has been a victim of police misconduct, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (800) 504-9590 or contact us online.