How to get a police officer in trouble? You may be furious now but you really have to give it a second thought, not discouraging you from voicing out against a bad officer though.
A police officer can get into trouble if you report that they behaved badly, rudely, abused their power, or failed to do their duty. In extreme cases, they get punished by getting fired, pay cut, reduction in rank, suspension, or a transfer to a different division. Or the police officer can simply be warned. This depends on their offense.
The everyday police officer is like any civilian, they can be invited on disciplinary action. A law-breaking or crime-committing officer can be arrested, brought before the courts, and tried. If found guilty will be punished. You could be wondering who arrests a bad cop, perhaps, another officer can do the arrest but it does not just happen.
How to get a police officer in trouble
You may be furious right now about your bad encounter with a police officer. Well, this guide is all you need to settle the scores. Below are the steps to get a police officer in trouble:
Gather the information
If you see or encounter a police officer doing what they are not supposed to, gather as much information as you can. Do this without attracting attention from the officer(s). You typically need the following:
- Officer’s name
- Badge number
- A witness (if any)
If possible, take photos or video but do not just put it all on the cop’s face like “hey! I have you on camera!”
File a report
File a report with the Internal Affairs of that police division or your local police division. When the police receive your complaint, the department member will notify a supervisor about it. They will prepare a written report containing your report and forward it through the chain of command (the hierarchy of command in the police department).
The command officer or supervisor who receives the note will inform you about the complaint process via mail. This also indicates if an investigation into your complaint is opened or declined. In Illinois, for example, you will be provided a Complaint Against Department Member form. You will complete this form and notarize it properly before it is forwarded.
Note: it is a criminal offense for you to knowingly submit false information to a peace/public officer.
The Division of Internal Investigation of that police agency will be informed about the complaint. An investigator is determined and your complaint is assigned a case number.
The investigating officer contacts you
The investigating officer assigned to your case will contact you. Make sure to be cooperative with the investigating officer to help with your case investigation.
You may be asked for a written statement by the investigating officer to assist them to conduct a fair, thorough, impartial, and timely investigation.
After gathering findings from you, the investigating officer prepares a summary of the investigation and forwards it through their chain of command. The investigating officer does not determine the disposition of your complaint against the police officer you want to get in trouble.
Give it time
The speed of the investigation depends on the seriousness of your allegation and the number of people involved. Thus, an investigation you want to get a bad police officer into trouble can take several weeks.
The investigators may try to conduct personal interviews with you or your witness or even the police officer you want to get in trouble.
Moreover, an investigation involving the criminal conduct of a police officer is conducted independently by the Division of Internal Investigation who will forward the case to either the state or federal prosecutor.
A public hearing is conducted
The State Police Director will file a complaint according to the result of the investigation with the Merit Board. The Merit Board appoints a hearing officer who conducts a public hearing on the matter.
After the hearing officer listens to your testimony, they review the evidence of your complaint. You and the witness (if any) may be subpoenaed to testify during the public hearing. Note that your witness may not be able to refuse to testify.
At the end of the hearing, the officer forwards the findings to the Merit Board or panel for considerations which depends on the evidence.
The officer you want in trouble will receive a copy of your signed complaint before their administrative interview. If the investigation results in the discipline of the officer, they may appeal the decision.
You will receive a notification
After the investigation, you will receive a letter showing the investigation findings. This letter may not specify the nature of the disposition. However, it tells you if the actions of the police officer were found to be appropriate.
If necessary, the police department will take corrective measures following the investigation.
Complaints that can get a cop in big trouble
- Gunshot during an altercation. If a police officer pulls a gun during an altercation, they can be found guilty in an administrative trial and punished severely. For example, an off-duty cop who pulled a gun on a couple in an altercation in a Queens parking lot was found guilty of taunting the couple with his gun. However, reports show that he remains in the force after a 30-day vacation.
- Drugs. A police officer who uses drugs will get into trouble, claims Rae Koshetz, a former NYPD deputy commissioner for trials.
- Corruption offense. A cop will get into trouble for committing a corruption offense such as taking money.
Will your complaint really get a police officer into trouble?
Let’s be honest, some legal and social factors may stop you from getting an officer into trouble. Consider the following:
Conflicts of interest
The prosecutor can face conflicts of interest. They may not want to break their relationship with the police department they work closely with when pursuing charges.
Cops typically and actively protect each other; this could make it harder for your complaint to get them into trouble.
Of course, the law favors the police the most.
The blue wall of silence
A police officer might resist partaking in what could get their colleague into trouble. Thus, they follow the “blue wall of silence” which is a code between officers that they will not snitch on each other.
Public hearing and the hearing officer
A lot of considerations can come into play during a public hearing, including the police officer’s:
- Past record
- Years of service
Reports claim that decisions are sometimes influenced through connections, a few words from someone in the right position can change the narratives.
Hence, an officer with no connections is treated differently, so it is all about who the police officer knows.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, may not push too hard because they work closely with police departments daily and do not want to damage their relationship.
Do you have pending violations or criminal charges against you?
If you have pending violations or criminal charges against you, your chance of getting a police officer into trouble is reduced. Moreover, the police can become more thorough with your case.
In this situation, contact a criminal defense attorney before you report any police officer. You have the right to remain silent but complaining at this point can deny this right.
Your criminal case can get really hurt when you report to the internal affairs of the police department. This could get the police department to prepare to handle your pending criminal case or violation more thoroughly to win a conviction against you.
Discuss with your criminal defense lawyer to find out if you should file a civil rights lawsuit or seek a criminal complaint to get a police officer into trouble.
There is a tendency for the administrative department to believe the police officer in terms of credibility.
Thus, a prosecutor requires a very strong case when an officer is on trial. Apart from the risk of damaging their work relationship, the prosecutor needs to convince the administrative panel that an officer who protects citizens really crossed the line.
Unfortunately, neither you nor the assigned investigating officer has control over the process. Nobody needs your ideas to determine the truth.