How to Report Police Misconduct in the United States?

In the United States, while a majority of law enforcement officials act with integrity, unfortunately, a rise in police misconduct frequently makes headlines for racial profiling, excessive force, police brutality, or illegal search and seizure.

As a citizen, understanding how to identify police misconduct and where to report these violations helps to ensure justice and accountability. However, the steps and requirements for reporting police misconduct may vary from state to state. An excessive force lawyer in Phoenix can help you navigate your legal options.

This guide will provide actionable steps for taking action against police misconduct, highlight important considerations, and offer several resources for filing a report and gaining further support and assistance.

Recognizing the Signs of Police Misconduct

Citizens can play a proactive role in addressing and reporting incidents by continually striving to recognize signs of inappropriate behavior and by gaining knowledge of the following different forms of police misconduct.

Excessive Force

While force may become necessary in volatile situations, excessive force occurs when an officer employs more force than is required to subdue a suspect or protect themselves or others, such as prolonged beatings, chokeholds, or shooting an unarmed or non-threatening suspect.

Police Brutality

The intention to cause harm by physically assaulting a person beyond necessary for control or arrest, administering gratuitous beatings, or engaging in sexual harassment or assault while on duty infringes upon an individual’s civil rights and indicates misconduct that must be addressed and reported.

Illegal Search and Seizure

If an officer conducts a search or confiscates property without a warrant, probable cause, or consent from the individual involved, it amounts to an illegal action violating The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Importance of Holding Law Enforcement Accountable for their Actions

When police officers use excessive force or engage in other forms of misconduct, they violate your civil rights and undermine the trust and confidence between law enforcement agencies and their communities.

You have a right to report police misconduct. By filing an official complaint, you work to ensure justice and achieve the following results.

  • Hold law enforcement accountable
  • Help deter future abuses
  • Promote a fair and just system

Steps to Report Police Misconduct

Reporting police misconduct varies from state to state. Research state-specific laws and writing mechanisms before proceeding. Some states may require additional steps or have unique reporting procedures in place.

Follow this step-by-step process for properly reporting misconduct.

  1. Gather evidence and identify witnesses
  2. Find the most appropriate agency to file the report, including local, state, and federal authorities
  3. File a formal complaint in writing to the department head or chief of police
  4. Contact the Internal Affairs Division of the agency and send a copy of the complaint
  5. Cooperate with the investigation, provide additional evidence, and continually follow up on the status of your complaint

Resources and Organizations That Can Provide Assistance

The following federal departments can help you address and report police misconduct in the United States.

  • Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

In Arizona, Thunderbird Law Group PLLC specializes in assisting victims of excessive force, police brutality, or violations of their civil rights by police or law enforcement personnel. Contact us online or call our office at 602-753-2933 to schedule your consultation.