These days, everyone has a cell phone, which means everyone has a high-quality video camera at their disposal. This has revealed the unfortunate truth that police officers engage in misconduct far more frequently than previously known. Thankfully, if you're a victim of misconduct or witness it, you can report it to the relevant authorities and help make your community safe.
Here's how to report police misconduct in New York and why the services of a New York police misconduct attorney can be invaluable.
Understand What Constitutes Police Misconduct
Police misconduct is police behavior that violates the law, ethical standards, or established policy. It can encompass a wide range of behaviors, including:
- Use of excessive force
- Abuse of authority
- Falsifying evidence and reports
- Coercive interrogations
It's important to note that these acts may not appear overly excessive or violent — it may be the simple act of cursing at a citizen. But it can, of course, be severe behavior like unacceptable physical abuse or violence.
No matter how small, and regardless of the form it takes, police misconduct erodes the fabric of society and the trust that citizens place in police officers and other agents of the state.
Possible Issues That Arise in the Aftermath of Police Misconduct
Police misconduct can lead to life-altering ramifications, such as:
- Physical pain and injuries
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Financial setbacks
- Injuries to reputation
Not to mention that police misconduct leads to a deep mistrust that is difficult to reverse.
Can I Sue for Police Misconduct in New York City?
Yes, you can sue New York police. To do so, you must prove that they violated your civil rights or engaged in negligent behavior that harmed you. You must also ensure that you file your complaint in the proper court and properly serve notice to the agency you are suing. Because of this, hiring a police misconduct attorney is essential.
Who Do You Report Police Misconduct To?
Several agencies in New York investigate police misconduct, including:
The Civilian Complaint Review Board
The CCRB investigates allegations of police misconduct against the New York City Police Department (NYPD). After an investigation, the CCRB can recommend disciplinary action against officers if it finds them to be responsible for misconduct.
The Internal Affairs Bureau
The IAB is a part of the NYPD and investigates allegations of law enforcement misconduct against members of the NYPD.
The District Attorney's Office
The D.A.'s office also investigates police corruption and misconduct, and it also prosecutes police officers who engage in criminal misconduct. Furthermore, it receives reports from other agencies that investigate police misconduct and prosecute the offenders when appropriate.
Keep in mind that the agency you report misconduct to may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case. That's why having an experienced attorney to assist and guide you will be important to ensure you make the right choice and follow the proper procedure.
How to Report Police Misconduct in New York: 3 Steps
When reporting misconduct, you must follow specific steps and remain organized when filing your case.
1. Document Precise Details for Your Police Misconduct Case
In order to create an accurate record of police misconduct, it is important that you write down everything that occurred during the incident you experienced or witnessed. This statement will be used as the basis for investigating the incident. As such, it must be clear, concise, and free from exaggerations and deceit.
When crafting your statement, make sure you describe the entire event in detail, from before the moment the misconduct occurred to the end. You should also try to write down the exact time, date, and location of the incident.
When it comes to documenting any police interactions, try to use the exact words exchanged between you, the officer, and any other parties. Don't forget to record police car license plate numbers, badge numbers, and the names of the officers involved.
Finally, write down the names and contact information of any witnesses to the incident.
2. Consult a Good Police Misconduct Attorney
Meeting with an experienced New York civil rights attorney will prove extremely helpful for your case. It's also essential for any victims of misconduct who have been arrested. If you've been arrested, it's essential to know that the state frequently prosecutes victims of misconduct quite severely in order to gain leverage in case the victim files a civil suit. Therefore, arrested individuals need representation as soon as possible after an arrest.
After all, police misconduct cases are complex and extremely difficult to prove. For this reason, many attorneys choose police misconduct cases based on the strength and availability of the evidence instead of how extreme or serious the incident was.
So if you have been a victim of police misconduct, showing up to an attorney's office calmly, organized, and with a well-drafted statement helps ensure that you get the representation you deserve. Your lawyer will likely charge a contingency fee, which is not due unless and until your lawyer wins compensation.
3. File a Police Misconduct Report
Filing a police misconduct report should not occur until the criminal and civil cases relating to the incident have been resolved. Filing too early will likely reveal too much to the police too early on, empowering them to fight your claim. However, if you are not suing or have not been charged with an offense, then waiting is unnecessary.
Where you file will depend on the jurisdiction of the incident. Typically, each police department has a citizen or civilian review board that accepts misconduct reports. Googling "police complaint" and the name of the area where the incident occurred typically yields good results.
If an official form is available or required for the misconduct report, make sure to use it. In some instances, failure to use the correct form can result in your case being rejected.
You may be required to call or visit the police station in order to get the paperwork for a misconduct report. If so, refrain from discussing your complaint with law enforcement officers or anyone related to the law enforcement agency. Failing to do so could result in intimidation tactics and cover-ups.
Before filing your complaint, don't forget to store copies in a secure location. You should also send your complaint by Certified Mail so there can be no denying that someone received it. Remember that your complaint helps create a record of misconduct that could later be used against a bad-acting officer.
How to Report Police Misconduct Anonymously
If you want to keep your name out of the official record, you have the option of anonymously reporting the incident to any of the agencies listed above. Additionally, your police misconduct attorney can file a misconduct report on your behalf if you are uncomfortable doing so. In fact, it's occasionally recommended that the attorney file a complaint for safety purposes.
What Happens After Filing a Complaint Against the New York City Police Department?
After you file a complaint, the relevant authorities will begin a formal investigation. Early on, you will be required to give a formal statement to the investigating officer regarding the incident of police misconduct. This should match the account you have given to start the complaint process. If you can't travel to the investigator to give your statement, they can often travel to you.
Remember that police misconduct investigations can take a while to complete. But once they are in, they are of public record permanently, thanks to a recent change in New York laws relating to disciplinary findings.
If you have experienced police misconduct in New York, you may be unsure what to do, and you may even feel isolated. But know that you are not alone. Thousands of complaints make their way to the various agencies that review police misconduct every year. They paint a disturbing picture of illegal chokeholds, unlawful searches and seizures, false arrests, and police brutality. And the more complaints that surface, the more light can shine on corrupt practices. Your story can go a long way to restoring justice.
If New York police have violated your rights or you know of such an incident, the attorneys at Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm can help you hold them accountable. And if you have suffered compensable losses, we will fight to make sure the police repay you for what you've lost.
Contact Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm for Help with Your Police Misconduct Case
For those who fall victim to the police, there are powerful options for reporting misconduct and suing for damages. At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we fight with you to hold officers and their departments accountable when they cross the line between misconduct and reasonable behavior. Contact us for help moving forward. Call (212) 869-3500 for a free consultation today.