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What is Police Misconduct?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 16, 2024
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Police misconduct refers to immoral or illegal actions taken by the police that often interfere with their role as upholders of justice. There are many different types of police misconduct, but they all have the potential to affect the proper execution of the law. What constitutes police misconduct is determined by the rules that govern the police in a certain area, and these rules are most often explicit and known to many citizens. In many cases, misconduct by police officers is taken very seriously because, in order for the police force to be effective, it must be trusted. Sometimes officers work to protect one another with a code of silence, making it difficult to prosecute offenders.

Most police misconduct is identified when someone who has been directly wronged by the police files a complaint. These cases can include use of excessive force, intimidation, or even sexual harassment. In some situations, a police officer who is off duty can use his or her status as a police officer in inappropriate ways. Sometimes when a person stands up for his or her rights in the face of a police officer, the officer may take it as a sign of disrespect and brutalize the civilian. Police misconduct can occur for any number of reasons, but any violation of the police code of conduct is serious.

Sometimes police misconduct is more complex and involves fabricating evidence or confessions. These actions may not directly cause a person injury, but they do often result in a miscarriage of justice. While it is certainly possible that a police officer might interfere with justice vengefully, it is much more common that the officer feels that he or she needs to make sure that the correct person ends up being punished. Even though this kind of misconduct is guided by a pursuit of justice, it is still highly unjust.

The biggest problem with police misconduct is not defining misconduct but identifying it with evidence. To protect both officers and civilians, many police units now use video and audio recording devices during interactions between these two groups. These recordings can be used as evidence for either side should a question of misconduct arise, and it is possible that the absence of a recording may be used as evidence if a recording would normally be expected. Given the respected position of the police in many areas, people who are victims of police misconduct often feel that they have no options when it comes to reporting the incident. It is still, however, very important that everyone is subject to the same laws, police officer or not.

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Discussion Comments

By anon958343 — On Jun 26, 2014

I was accused of retail theft from a convenience store in my area, and was held guilty because the witness that I brought with me was, and I quote, "Not with me at the time of theft." The police claim they made contact with me and confronted me about paying for the item I was accused of stealing. The off duty police officer then proceeded to call 9-1-1 as I walked out of the store. With no evidence against me, I was arrested and brought back to the police station for the usual process..

At my court hearing today, no evidence was presented against me and my story checked out and confirmed. Yet in still, I'm held guilty of the charge.

What am I to do to go against these false accusations and charges?

By anon957434 — On Jun 20, 2014

If asked, is a uniformed deputy supposed to identify himself?

By anon350784 — On Oct 08, 2013

An incident took place involving my husband 10 minutes from my house. The police came to the door, and my husband answered, and they snatched him out of the house. Then two officers proceed to my daughters' room, and started asking them questions, even though they are under the age of 18.

One stayed with my daughters while the other one looked around the house. They claimed they saw drugs in plain site, so they got a warrant. They were in and out of my house all night with no warrant. One officer walked into my house with a camera, and the other officer claimed it was legal. for before and after pictures.

They called CPS on us about drug manufacturing at 12:25, but the warrant was not signed until 2 a.m. Two weeks after the incident they came back and arrested me. Now keep in mind I stayed in the front of my house the whole night, and they charged me with nothing. This is out of control. They tried to attack my business, but none of my customers left. Police are the worst. They lie too damn much and they wonder why they can't get any help from the public!

By anon328656 — On Apr 04, 2013

I have been being harassed by the police for over a year on suspicion of selling drugs. I was told I needed to give names and that I was supposed to go buy drugs for the station or they were going to send me to prison. I kept telling them no.

Today, they showed up at my door and asked if they could come in. I said no and they said, "yes, I think we need to talk" I said no, and they said,"we have a warrant for your arrest." I asked to see it, and they showed me a piece of paper. I could not find my name on it and I asked them where was my name? The officer pointed at a name which was not mine. I then told him that is not my name; that is my brother's girlfriend.

He kicked in my door and grabbed for me and said, "you're still coming with us. We have one at the station for you" I said go get it and bring it back and show me first. He said "no" as he was pulling out his handcuffs and my 16 year old bipolar daughter got scared and started screaming, "you can't do that. You can't come in." Then they started threatening to take her too.

After I got to the station the officer said, "you knew this was coming. You could end it all if you would talk." I just kept quiet. I was given an orange jail shirt and some sandals and was told to put them on. I then was put in a concrete cell where I received no food or water for approximately seven hours before I was able to bond out. Not once during this entire time was I read my rights.

By anon292167 — On Sep 18, 2012

I was longboarding and I was going around a curb and I hit a police officer and we both fell down and he hit me in the face afterwards and said "watch the --- where you're going!" And then he sidekicked me and I didn't know what the hell was going on. Is there something i can do about that?

By anon284542 — On Aug 10, 2012

My son's girlfriend was searched by a male officer, the same one who has been charging my son with bogus charges. Can anyone tell me how to stop this mess in Pensacola, Florida?

The same investigating officer won't leave well enough alone and I've sat back and paid bonds and lawyers and yet he's still out there to arrest someone again, and I worry other people are going to get the same treatment as my son has and now his girlfriend. What can I do to stop this?

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