Police officers are considered to be vanguards of a city's law and order. They are trained, appointed, and funded by the government to protect citizens from all forms of misconduct, violence, and crime. The most controversial aspect of their responsibilities is the authority to use force. They may use force to control and disperse a crowd, make an arrest, or perform other daily routines for surveillance. However this authority to use force should only be used within the boundaries necessary to resolve a certain disorder, other than that it attracts the attention of the public, the government, and the media as another case of police misconduct.
Police misconduct has attracted the media's attention for various reasons. One camp says that what has been reported on the news is just the tip of the iceberg. Another group says that reports of police misconduct have been blown out of proportion. Some observers note that there are multiple instances when the police have successfully resolved operations without using excessive force and thus should merit a form of recognition. However amidst different viewpoints, one thing remains true. Police misconduct has tarnished the police's reputation and most importantly the public's trust.
Here are some examples of police misconduct that we should all be aware of.
It has been mentioned before that the police are only allowed to use force when necessary, apart from that, abuse of power happens if they intentionally use excessive force through unreasonable physical and verbal assaults. A common instance is when a police officer beats up a suspect without any valid reason. What is interesting to note is that the usual victims belong to minority groups such as Blacks, the poor, and the young people. According to recent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, police brutality is common in US prison. According to a 2006 report by the Human Rights Watch, five state prison systems allow the use of unmuzzled dogs on prisoners as part of cell removal procedure.
An arrest pertains to the act of being held in custody by the police for a certain period of time. Before arresting a suspect, the police should have a warrant of arrest or a court order issued to prove that there is a probable reason for the arrest. Law enforcers and other authorities may also issue an arrest warrant to an individual provided that they were vested by the jurisdiction to perform police power acts. However the time limit of an arrest should only last long enough for the police to identify the correct suspect especially for petty crimes.
Racial profiling is the practice of suspecting a person based on the characteristics of his/her race. By using these preconceived characteristics, the police then identifies the probability of these people being more guilty of a certain crime based on their race's crime profile. A theory has been said that the reason why police officers use racial profiling is because they become more concerned in the probability of a more successful search or arrest rather than correctly identifying the suspect of the crime. A good example is how people of Middle Eastern descent are likely to receive a more thorough search in airports compared to Europeans and Americans. This is because they are usually suspected to be terrorists than any other race.
The falsification of evidence is used either to convict an innocent person or to solidify the conviction of a guilty person. There are those who choose to tamper evidence in order to avoid the long and thorough process of collecting accurate data. There are reported instances when the police manipulate a crime scene by placing a gun to justify a shoot out. This is the reason why the handling of evidence during investigation should carefully follow the correct process of the chain of custody. It is important to make sure that there is only a few number of people as possible who will handle, inspect, and keep the evidence.
Bribery refers to the practice of soliciting financial benefits and career advancements in exchange for not pressing charges and non-investigation of crimes committed usually by powerful individuals. Another form of corruption exists in falsified evidence based on vested interests in protecting someone or a group of people.
Other forms of misconduct exist apart from those mentioned above. As much as we know the kinds of police misconduct, it is equally important to educate ourselves of our civil rights that protect us from any form of abuse, discrimination, and undue process. According to the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment clearly states that unreasonable searches of citizen's home and properties are considered illegal unless a warrant or a probable cause has been presented. On the other hand the Eighth Amendment protects the citizens from any form of cruel or unusual punishments.
If you feel that you have been a victim of police misconduct, it is best that you immediately consult a civil rights lawyer near you. With the help of a reputable civil rights attorney, you will be guided as to what options you have or what legal actions you need to take in order to prove your case.