When the people in uniform meant to protect us are the ones who hurt us, it may feel like there is nowhere to turn. Police misconduct and police brutality are unfortunately a growing problem, especially in New York City. At Bantle & Levy LLP, we stand with those in our community who speak out against these wrongdoings by members of authority and will fight diligently to seek the justice you deserve.
What is Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct includes a wide range of illegal or unethical actions that violate an individual’s constitutional rights at the hands of police officers in the conduct of their duties. Examples of police misconduct and police brutality include:
- Excessive use of force
- Using torture or coercion to force a confession
- Sexual assault
- Quid pro quo for leniency
- Abuse of authority
- Fraud; lying
- Planting evidence
How Often Does Police Brutality Occur?
According to the Police Violence Report by Mapping Police Violence, in 2020 alone, there were over 1,100 killings by police. Mapping Police Violence reported that most of these deaths could have been prevented.
Other key findings include:
- 96% of deaths were by police shootings. Tasers, physical force, and police vehicles accounted for most others.
- Of the total of 1,127 people killed by police in 2020, only 16 officers met criminal charges.
- Eight of the 16 cases included video evidence, mostly by police body and dash cameras.
- Of the total amount of killings, officers were only identified in 444 cases. At least 14 had shot or killed someone before and five had been involved in multiple prior shootings.
- 97 people were killed as a result of police responding to calls of someone behaving erratically or having a mental health crisis.
- 80 of the total deaths include people who had been unarmed, most of whom were people of color.
What Laws Protect Citizens from Police Misconduct?
There are both federal and state laws that offer protections to citizens against police misconduct and brutality. Federal laws include:
- Conspiracy Against Rights (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242): It is a crime for one or more persons acting under “color of law” to willfully deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. “Under color of law” means that the person doing the act is using power given to them by a governmental agency be it local, state, or federal.
- Police Misconduct Provision (34 U.S.C. § 12601): It is unlawful for state or local law enforcement officers to engage in a practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. This includes excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches, or arrests.
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by state and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from the Department of Justice.
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all state and local government programs, services, and activities regardless of whether they receive DOJ financial assistance.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Prohibits discrimination in programs and activities conducted by federal agencies, including law enforcement agencies.
State and local laws that protect against police misconduct in New York and New York City include:
- Appeal of Section 50 of New York Civil Rights Law: Prior to the appeal of Section 50, this law prevented the disclosure of police officer personnel records without either the express, written consent of the police officer or court order. Now, these records are available.
- Police Accountability Act: According to the New York Attorney General, “The Police Accountability Act (S.6615) includes a series of reforms aimed at improving protocols and strengthening accountability measures when police officers use force, especially lethal force. These legislative reforms are intended to reduce deaths at the hands of police by ensuring that police officers adhere to practices and tactics that aim to preserve life and only use lethal force as a last resort, while providing prosecutors with appropriate tools to potentially hold officers accountable when an individual dies after an interaction with police.”
What Can I Do If I or a Loved One Experiences Police Misconduct?
In New York City, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) is an agency that is independent of the police department and has subpoena power. It handles four categories of complaints against police officers:
- Complaints of unnecessary or excessive use of force
- Abuse of authority: Use of power to intimidate or otherwise mistreat a civilian. (ie. unlawful search and seizure, improper questioning or frisking, improper strip searches, vehicle stops without probable cause, etc.)
- Using obscene or offensive language
Unfortunately, this board has proven rather ineffective.
Victims also have the option to file with the DOJ as a criminal or civil enforcement. Local offices handling these cases can be found here.
When filing in New York City, you may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Mental anguish
- Attorney fees
- Punitive damages
However, these cases are very complex, which is why it is imperative that you seek legal counsel from a New York City police misconduct attorney.
Victim of Police Misconduct? Contact Bantle & Levy LLP Today.
When the men and women in uniform begin to use that power to harm citizens, legal action must be taken. Bantle & Levy LLP is here for New York and will fight diligently to ensure you are compensated for the violation of your rights. But we know this process is not just a legal one, but emotional for the victim and their family–that’s why we’re here for you, every step of the way.
Contact us today to learn more.