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Laws that protect individuals from police misconduct

It is fairly widespread in the news in California and other states across the nation when an individual asserts that they have been mistreated by law enforcement. This is not an easy topic to touch on; however, it is a serious situation when citizens believe they have suffered because of police misconduct. Not only are individuals impacted by the unlawful treatment of law enforcement, but when this occurs, their loved ones could suffer too. This is especially true when an individual loses their life because of police misconduct.

In order to address police misconduct across the nation, laws have been passed and enforced by the Department of Justice. These federal laws include both criminal and civil statutes, covering the actions and conduct by State, county and local officers, which also includes individuals that work in prisons and jails. Many of these laws also apply to federal law enforcement officers, and they were passed to protect all persons within the U.S., including citizens and non-citizens.

The Police Misconduct Provision makes it unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in the practice of or the pattern of conduct that ultimately deprives a person of his or her rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution or the laws of the state. The conduct covered by the law includes excessive force, discrimination, harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct and unlawful stops, searches and arrests.

However, in order for this law to apply to a situation, the individual asserting police misconduct must prove that the misconduct in question is a pattern or practice of the officer. It cannot be an isolated incident. If this is proven, then it is possible to seek remedies for the harms suffered.

A civil action could help the individual or their loved ones recover a monetary award for their losses. This action also works to hold the officer in question accountable for his or her wrongdoings. Taking the step to file such an action might be overwhelming and intimidating; however, it is important to be aware of your rights and take action to protect them.

Source: Justice.gov, "Addressing Police Misconduct Laws Enforced by the Department of Justice," accessed Nov. 5, 2017

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