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Police Harassment

Police holding batons in file

Most police officers are professional and abide by their boundaries and protocols when coming in contact with the public. However, there may be a time when you have a negative encounter or multiple encounters with an officer. Police harassment is when an officer abuses their authority by continually stopping someone, aggressively questioning him or by conducting an illegal search and seizure

Harassment can also happen when officer's attempt to coerce a person into admitting they committed a crime or threatening the person just to obtain information. The following are more forms of harassment. 

  • Illegally doing surveillance on a person
  • Excessive force
  • Racial, gender or homophobic comments
  • Holding people against their will 

Exceeding authority

Police officers typically rely on sources to provide them with information used for arrests or seizures. However, if the officer relies on a known unreliable source this could potentially lead to a law suit for harassment. This can also happen if other law enforcement witnesses the illegal arrest and does nothing to intervene. 

How to stop police harassment and abuse

First step in stopping harassment is to know your civil rights. It is easy to be coerced into believing the wrong thing when it comes from law enforcement who is supposed to be protecting you. After knowing your civil rights have been violated, you need to report your claim to the police department. Make sure you document everything to do with your claim as well as any future encounters with law enforcement. If no changes happen after this report is filed, then file a second complaint. Lastly, contact your attorney and if he feels you have a viable claim he will file a lawsuit. 

Common questions 

Below are common questions potential victims have asked. Legal Experts use their experience and knowledge to give detailed information. 

What is the most effective way to voice a police harassment issue?

If you feel like you are a victim, first file a harassment complaint against the police officer you feel is harassing you at his place of employment. If that does not end the harassment, filing a complaint within the Internal Affairs Bureau is the next route to take. However, before filing a complaint within the Internal Affairs Bureau, you must keep a detailed record of every instance that you feel harassed by law enforcement or a specific officer.

If a complaint filed with the Chief of Police gets no action, what can be done?

If you feel as if you are being ignored even after filing a complaint against an officer or feel he is now singling you out, there are other options to take. After sending a certified letter to the chief of police stating your cause with no action, you can file a complaint with the State Attorney General’s office or the District Attorney in the county you live in. One other option is to file a Federal complaint if you feel your civil rights have been violated by the police. In this case you should speak to a local civil litigation attorney to handle the case.

Are police allowed to break down a door every time they have a judge ordered search warrant?

If a judge has issued a search warrant, the police have the right to enter your house and search the premises within the provisions of the search warrant. If there is a valid court order allowing a search, it is not considered harassment. However, the police can only search the premises within the provisions of the search warrant and normally do not have the right to cause avoidable damage to the property. Depending on the situation, and especially if the police fail to find evidence during the search, you may be able to file a complaint with the police agency, and/or the State Attorney General’s office if you feel they are misusing the provisions of the search warrant and causing harassment. In extreme cases, you may need to speak to an attorney to take legal action.

After searching a vehicle and finding nothing, can the police have it towed claiming the person was acting suspicious? 

The police have a right to tow the car on the account of probable cause. However, if they find nothing after a search of the car, this could be an unreasonable search and seizure and can be a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. You may need to hire a lawyer to file a complaint against the police department for abuse of authority. Under normal circumstances, if a search of the car yields nothing, and no tickets are issued, it should not have been towed. Your lawyer may be able to sue for not only police misconduct, but also for towing fines and punitive damages

Can a police officer issue a ticket outside his jurisdiction and falsify the address and location of the car?

If you can prove your exact location when you were stopped and issued a ticket, the first thing is to contact the police department where that officer works and complain to the sergeant. Let the sergeant know that his officer was outside his jurisdiction and explain what happened. Provide the sergeant with proof of where you were at that time. Depending on your situation, you may have grounds for discrimination, police misconduct, unlawful police abuse, and possible profiling. If you can appear in person, try to get a written copy that the ticket was invalid and removed. 

Many police harassment cases do not get addressed because most people are not sure of their legal rights and the limitations of a police officer’s authority. It is essential for people to know their civil rights and voice when those are being violated. Ask an Expert for more information on your specific case. 

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