Bad behavior by police officers is not just the stuff of movies and television. As a recent article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger documents, one municipality (Edison) has had at least 30 officers either terminated or voluntarily resign over the last 20 years when subjected to allegations of criminal or other inappropriate behavior. The allegations range from excessive force to rape to drug crimes.
The reality, unfortunately, is that police officers generally work in teams, and tend to honor an unwritten rule that they will always protect each other. Consequently, in situations involving police brutality or other wrongful conduct, other police officers at the scene may be inclined to point the finger at you. What are the steps you can take to protect your rights? Here are some specific measures that can help you hold police officers accountable for violence or excessive force.
- As soon as possible, write down as much as you can possibly remember about what happened. Include information about where you were, how you got there, when police arrived, who called the police, anything that was said, how many police officers were there, and who else was present.
- If at all possible, talk to any potential witnesses before they leave the scene. Get contact information, including address, phone and e-mail address. Don’t interfere with police while they are conducting an investigation or talking to witnesses, but make certain that you have an opportunity to talk to witnesses as well.
- Ask for the names of all police officers present. If you have someone with you, have them take videos or pictures during or after any altercation.
- As soon as possible, go to the nearest police department and ask for a police misconduct form. This is also the best time to contact an attorney. Your attorney can work with you to prepare and file the misconduct form, and can act as your liaison with the police department. It’s important to remember that you are not limited to the space available on the police misconduct form. You can prepare and attach additional pages documenting the incident, if necessary.
- Make four copies of the completed police misconduct form. One form should go to the Internal Affairs or similar investigative office of your local police department. A second copy should be sent to your local prosecutor or district attorney’s office. A third copy should go to the nearest FBI office, where you should also file a Color of Law criminal complaint. Keep a fourth copy for your files.
Contact Mallon & Tranger
We offer a free initial consultation to people in New Jersey who have been victims of police brutality. To set up a meeting, contact us online or call us at (732) 410-6094) for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.