Police misconduct is a persistent problem that costs the liberties and sometimes the lives of far too many Americans. Law enforcement officers should discharge their duties with professionalism, respect for the rights of private citizens, and fairness under the Constitution. When this doesn’t happen, victims of police misconduct can hold officers civilly liable.
The civil rights lawyers of Hale & Monico work on behalf of individuals who have been mistreated by law enforcement officers and agencies. If you or someone you know was the victim of police misconduct, find out how we can serve you.
Law Enforcement’s Obligation To The Public
No one doubts that police and other law enforcement agencies have a tough job. Nonetheless, the difficulties of their work do not excuse police misconduct. Officers and agencies alike owe the public a duty of care, in that they are required to obey constitutional and statutory limitations on their authority. If they exceed this authority, citizens may have their rights violated or even be seriously injured or killed. Police misconduct may take the form of negligent or intentional acts or omissions. Either way, victims have the right to pursue justice and compensation.
What Is The Law For Police Misconduct In Illinois?
In Illinois, victims of police misconduct can pursue legal action under both state laws and federal civil rights statutes:
- Illinois Civil Rights Act – Provides a cause of action for civil rights violations by police officers. Allows victims to sue for damages when constitutional rights are violated.
- Illinois Human Rights Act – Prohibits discrimination by law enforcement based on protected classes like race, gender, religion, disability, etc.
- 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 – Federal law allowing civil suits against police officers who violate constitutional rights under color of law. One of the main tools for police misconduct claims.
- Monell Claims – Section 1983 claims can also be brought against municipalities for policies, patterns, customs that lead to civil rights violations.
- Fourth Amendment – Excessive force, illegal searches, false arrest are violations of 4th Amendment rights actionable under Section 1983.
- Fourteenth Amendment – Violations of due process and equal protection by police are actionable.
- Failure to Intervene – Officers who fail to stop misconduct by fellow officers can also be liable.
In addition to civil litigation under these laws, misconduct can result in criminal charges and/or disciplinary actions for the officers involved if departmental or criminal investigations ensue. An attorney can advise victims on the options for pursuing justice and accountability.
Examples Of Police Misconduct
There are unfortunately many different ways that law enforcement may violate the rights of citizens. These are a few of the most common examples of police misconduct:
Excessive force. This includes the use of improper or unnecessary restraints, holds, and other actions against suspects and others. Excessive force doesn’t have to be deadly, but the term usually refers to more force than is necessary to protect officers or the public or to conduct police business.
Shooting, taser, and baton injuries. Police must act responsibly when employing a gun, baton, or taser. Discharging a firearm is always serious and may be necessary to save the life of an officer or civilian. The same is true concerning other police weapons. But excessive or irresponsible use of these weapons could result in serious injuries or death.
Third-party cases. Several injuries are reported every year by third-party individuals who were hurt in police chases, shootings, and other law enforcement actions. Police are responsible if they inflict personal injury or property damage upon these third parties.
Beatings. Police sometimes beat suspects out of anger, retribution, or inability to control their adrenaline. Even individuals who are guilty of crimes do not deserve to be physically assaulted by law enforcement, and they may have a civil claim of misconduct.
False arrest. This comes in many forms, but often involves planting evidence on someone’s person or property, coercing a suspect to confess, or simply placing a person under arrest for something the officer knows isn’t illegal.
Unreasonable searches and seizures. Whether it’s during a traffic stop, in someone’s home, or just a pedestrian on the street, police have certain constitutional limitations to their ability to conduct searches and seize evidence.
Sexual abuse. Some officers take advantage of suspects they’ve either arrested or detained. Sexual abuse can come in the form of rape, assault, molestation, groping, and other violations.
There are numerous other types of misconduct, such as:
- Racial profiling and discrimination
- Misuse of police dogs
- Giving false testimony in court
- Malicious prosecution on false or baseless charges
- Jail custody abuse
- Wrongful death caused by police misconduct
Ask a knowledgeable civil rights attorney if you believe the police in some way violated your rights.
Who Investigates Police Misconduct In Chicago?
There are two main entities that investigate allegations of police misconduct in Chicago:
- Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) – This is an independent city agency empowered to investigate complaints against Chicago police officers. COPA has jurisdiction over claims of excessive force, abuse of authority, improper search/seizure, and more.
- Chicago Police Department – Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) – The police department’s IAB also investigates claims of officer misconduct. Serious cases may be referred to federal authorities.
Citizens can file complaints with either COPA or IAB to trigger an investigation. The agencies can interview witnesses, examine evidence, and recommend disciplinary action for officers found to have engaged in misconduct.
However, the investigative process has limitations, so victims of police abuse often pursue civil litigation against individual officers and the City to obtain justice. An experienced attorney can help navigate the options.
How to Pursue a Police Misconduct Case
No matter how the police violated your rights, it will be up to you to prove your case in court. This can be intimidating for many victims who worry about retaliation and taking on powerful police attorneys and interests. Having an aggressive police misconduct attorney who understands the law and knows how to win a case is therefore essential.
The officer will likely invoke a principle known as qualified immunity to try to shield him- or herself. This legal doctrine protects officers from civil liability as long as they didn’t violate someone’s constitutional or statutory rights. Overcoming qualified immunity requires proving that the officer intentionally used unconstitutionally excessive force, or engaged in other forms of abuse in violation of the law.
Cases of police misconduct are generally pursued separately from any criminal actions that may be taken against a law enforcement officer. In other words, whether a criminal case is pursued against the officer or not, you may still pursue a civil one. Even if you are found guilty of the underlying crime for which you were arrested or accused, you could have a civil claim.
Contact Our Police Misconduct Attorney
Holding police accountable for misconduct is an important step to winning the monetary compensation and justice you deserve for your injuries. It also goes a long way in protecting communities and ensuring future incidents don’t happen again. If you were the victim of police misconduct, reach out to Hale & Monico today to get started on your case.