Even though cops are the primary enforcers of the law, they are not above the laws they swear to protect. Indeed, there are laws that apply only to police officers because they are only valid within the context of a police department. If a police officer does something that is not in accordance with the rule of law, this means that they are engaging in police misconduct. Police misconduct is a pretty big deal, and police departments all across the country are trying to clamp down on it.
If you are living in the US, especially if you are a person of color, it is essential that you learn about the various kinds of misconduct there are out there. If a police officer tries to do something that is illegal, you would be able to call it out then and there. If you have a video recording of the incident, it would be even better as it could potentially be used as concrete evidence that misconduct actually occurred. Listed below are some of the types of police misconduct that you should be aware of.
Taking Your Recording Device
You have a constitutional right to record the police. This is why the first thing you do when you are stopped by the police is to start recording them immediately. If the police try to take your phone or camera away from you, they are breaking the law as they have no right to take your belongings. If you are afraid that he/she might take away and dispose of your recording device in order to enable them to do something untoward, start broadcasting your recording live to a social media site. This would help you keep a constant record of what happened during your stop and search, and it would also have a live audience that would be able to testify even if the video is taken down. It is always best to be proactive when it comes to protecting yourself during police encounters.
Police officers cannot have personal agendas. This would be extremely counterproductive because they would only ever arrest people that they do not like. If you feel like a police officer has a history with you or your social class, gender or race, you can file a complaint stating that the officer was engaging in selective enforcement. Police officers often have vendettas because their position is one of great power and, being human, some end up abusing their power to meet their own ends. If you can prove selective enforcement, it can create quite a big problem for the officer in question. Be careful, however, do not accuse him/her wrongly. It could potentially end their career in the forces.
Asking for Bribes
Bribing a police officer is a serious offense, but it is also a serious offense for them to take or even ask for bribes from you. Hence, if he/she suggests that you hand over a gift of money or something similar, you should avoid their offer entirely. Offering any kind of favor to a cop can be seen as a bribe, so always be careful. You may not intend for it to be a bribe, but in cases like this, your intentions will be hard to prove.
Police officers are absolutely not allowed to touch you during a stop and search unless they are patting you down. The pat-down itself is meant to be as gentle as possible, and police officers are supposed to wear gloves while they are doing it in order to provide an additional degree of separation. Physical violence is never allowed unless there is a threat from the person being searched. Unfortunately, police officers are known to take the slightest gesture as a sign of threatening advances and might end up using excessive force anyway.
If you get injured during a police stop in spite of the fact that you were completely cooperative you should file a written complaint. While it is quite difficult for police officers to get convicted, it would, at the very least, add this incident to their permanent record. Such a note in their record may make it difficult for them to go ahead in their career, and it may spare others from undergoing a similar ordeal by the same officer.
You would be surprised at just how many cops steal. If you leave them to search your vehicle completely unsupervised, there is a significant likelihood that they would end up stealing something from you. If you have any valuables in your car, make sure that you keep a close eye on what the police officer is doing. If you are right behind them watching their every move, they would be less likely to do something bad to you.
If something from your car does go missing after the police has searched it, you need to file a complaint right away. Always try and get a video recording of the police while they investigate your car. They may not want to do anything untoward if they are aware of being filmed.
Having Their Firearm Out Without a Reason
They will have a firearm for a reason. After all, they put their lives on the line a lot of the time, and with so many dangerous criminals out there it is only natural that they would need weapons of their own. However, it is important to note that they can’t just take their firearm out at any time. This is a punishable offence because it comes under excessive use of force and can be seen as an unnecessarily threatening gesture.
A cop can only take out their firearm when they are under threat, or if they feel like the person they are checking might harm them. Even then, they are trained to shoot to maim, killing is only allowed in extreme circumstances.
Keep these things in mind the next time you’re stopped for a police check.