Police officers provide a vital service – enforcing laws and helping keep the public safe. In the vast majority of instances, law enforcement officials mean well and have been trained adequately so that they can carry out their duties properly and ethically. However, police corruption does exist. Oftentimes, this corruption occurs at the public’s expense.
How is police corruption or misconduct investigated and stopped? While law enforcement officers might appear to be without behavioral restrictions or rules, that is not the case. Police are bound by strict guidelines and can be disciplined harshly or even removed from duty if they are found to be in violation of their code of conduct.
Who Investigates Police Corruption?
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is one agency responsible for investigating police corruption. In fact, the FBI looks into public corruption at the federal, state and local levels. This misconduct can be by any public official, including law enforcement officers.
In addition, most police departments have a group of investigators devoted to Internal Affairs. The sole responsibility of this organization is to look into allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officers.
Along with government agencies, many cities employ independent police auditors in an effort to ensure complaints are dealt with in an unbiased manner.
Read More: Types of Police Corruption
What Does Internal Affairs Do?
Internal Affairs is a division within the police department responsible for investigating misconduct by police officers and other law enforcement staff. Complaints by the public and other employees should be reported to the Internal Affairs department for investigation. The results of these inquiries are usually not made available to the public, but police departments take them very seriously. Maintaining trust with the population they serve is critical to law enforcement’s success.
What Do Independent Police Auditors Do?
Independent police auditors are contractors who audit police records, processes and procedures to ensure that law enforcement agencies are operating within the confines of the law. In the event of improper behavior, the public is encouraged to contact the police auditor for their jurisdiction and file a complaint. This can be done in addition to or instead of filing a complaint with Internal Affairs.
How Do You Make a Complaint Against the Police?
To file a complaint against a police officer, first contact the Internal Affairs division of the relevant department. In most cases, you can file your statement orally or in writing. Internal Affairs has the responsibility to take your statement in a way that is simple and not burdensome to you.
Members of the public, as well as other police officers or public officials, are encouraged to speak up if they observe or suspect behavior that doesn’t seem appropriate. It is the job of Internal Affairs to hear these concerns and determine any need for further investigation.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, complainants should receive a written copy of their statement or documentation that their allegation was recorded. If you file a complaint and receive such evidence, keep it for your records.
In addition, you may file a complaint with your local Independent Police Auditor. It is their job to ensure transparency and accountability within law enforcement. Like with Internal Affairs, complaints may be filed in writing, in person, over the phone and often over the internet. You can feel confident that your complaint will be investigated thoroughly and in an unbiased manner.
What is Considered Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct can fall into a number of categories. The Department of Justice indicates that the sort of behavior reported most often is the use of excessive force by police officers. Misconduct by law enforcement can also include theft, false arrest, deliberate indifference to medical needs, placing a person in custody despite the risk of harm, or inappropriate sexual behaviors. Bribery, financial crimes, and obstruction of justice by law enforcement officials are also examples of reportable offenses.
Police officers are public servants sworn to protect and serve. If you have any reason to believe a law enforcement official has not upheld her oath of duty, contact her agency immediately and ask to speak with a representative from Internal Affairs, or contact your local Independent Police Auditor. By doing so, you will be helping to keep your friends and neighbors safe, as well.
Police are bound by strict guidelines and can be disciplined harshly or even removed from duty if they are found to be in violation of their code of conduct. Report any law enforcement misconduct to Internal Affairs or your local Independent Police Auditor immediately.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. She has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, and enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.