Know Your Rights With Police Officers
What makes a police officer powerless? When citizens know their rights!
Police officers hate to hear these words:
“Am I free to go?”
“I’m going to remain silent.”
“I don’t consent to a search.”
You have rights during a traffic stop or during any police encounter. Learn what your rights are and use them!
1.) Your Safety - Start by putting the police officer at ease. Pull over to a safe place, turn off your ignition, stay in the car and keep your hands on the steering wheel. At night turn on the interior light. Keep your license, registration and proof of insurance close by like in your “sun visor.”
Be courteous, stay calm, smile and don’t complain. Show respect and say things like “sir and no sir.” Never bad-mouth a police officer, stay in control of your words, body language and your emotions. Keep your hands where the police officer can see them.
2.) I’m Going to Remain Silent - The Supreme Court says you should never talk to a police officer even if your not under arrest, without an attorney present. The Supreme Court ruled you must speak up and SAY to the police officer “I’m going to remain silent” and then keep your mouth shut even if you’re not under arrest.
3.) Just Say NO to Police Searches! - If a police officer didn’t need your permission to search you, he wouldn’t be asking you. Never give permission for a police officer to search you, your car or your home.
4.) Am I Free to Go? - As soon as the police officer ask you a question ask him, “Am I free to go?” You have to ask if you’re “free to go,” otherwise the police officer will think that you’re voluntarily staying around to talk with him. If the police officer says that you’re being detained or arrested tell the police officer, “I’m going to remain silent.”
Police officers depend on fear and intimidation to get what they want from you and this includes giving up your rights. The government made a law that allows police officers to lie to American citizens.
For the safety of police officers the government allows the police to pat down your outer clothing to see if you have any weapons. If the police officer feels something that he believes is a weapon, then he can go into your pockets and pull out the item he believes is a weapon.
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How to file a complaint against a police officer
Never … ever…walk into a police station by yourself and try to file a complaint against a police officer. Civilian testers have shown that you may be harassed or falsely arrested for doing so.
Police complaints are allegations of misconduct and you as a citizen have the right to file a police complaint. When someone files a police complaint against a police officer an incident report is placed in the officer’s record, so as to hopefully keep the officer from continuing to abuse his or her authority. It also makes the officers superiors aware that there might be a problem with an individual police officer that needs to be addressed. Filing a police complaint and reporting police misconduct is a step towards ending this abuse of power by police.
Examples of police misconduct:
Soliciting or accepting bribes
Drinking on duty
Making a false report (good for alleging in the case of traffic tickets)
Use of narcotics (on or off duty)
Altering information on an official document
Careless driving (driving rapidly and/or aggressively to a minor call
Racial or ethnic intimidation
Malicious threats or assault
Police complaints will not get a victim compensated for police abuse. Police complaints are not law suits. If you file a complaint against a police officer and the police clear themselves as they often do, the only recourse you may have is a civil law suit. A civil law suit you may receive compensation if you and your attorney can prove damages or civil rights violations. Contact a competent civil rights attorney if you need more information about filing a law suit for civil rights violations.
To file a complaint on a police officer “one of a less serious nature,” you need to send a written complaint “certified mail with return receipt.” You can send the police complaint to Internal Affairs. Certified mail gives you some type of proof that you actually filed a complaint against a police officer. If you don’t send the complaint certified mail the letter sometimes gets lost or misplaced by someone at the police department.
As soon as possible write down everything that happened. Don’t worry about sending your complaint off right away. Wait a few days and go back over your written complaint and see what you might have forgotten the first time you wrote it. There’s no need for “emotions” to be involved, when you write your complaint and the most important thing is to be truthful! If the police catch you in a lie, your complaint won’t be credible nor will any other complaints you send in the future. You could even be charged for making a false report against a police officer and in some states be sued.
The more information in your written complaint the better. Your compliant should include:
Who is the officer you’re filing a complaint against? Name or badge number?
What the officer said or did? Was he rude, abusive or used excessive force?
When did it happen? Date and time.
Where did it occur? Location?
How did the incident occur?
Do you have corroborating witnesses, whose story does not conflict with yours? If you have witnesses you should ask each of them to write a separate account of the incident.
Do you have any type of evidence, like pictures or a video recording? If you do, don’t send the “original” to the police, send only a copy.
Mail the complaint “certified mail with return receipt requested,” to Internal Affairs at the police department or the sheriffs department where the officer works. The complaint will be investigated and you should receive a letter back from the police agency on the status of your complaint. Most police complaints will be in the favor of the police officer, but the good thing is the complaint will stay on the police officers record.
The police may try and contact you by phone or mail to do a “follow up” about your complaint. Don’t answer any questions and never go down to the police station for an interview. Tell them everything they need to know is in your letter you sent and then say good bye. Stick to what you said in your complaint letter and say nothing else!
There is a time limit on how long you have to file a complaint against a police officer. For minor police misconduct you may have only 60 days and up to 6 months for more serious allegations.
If you’re interested in knowing what complaints have been filed against police officers in your community, you may request a copy of that information be sent to you from that police agency. Send your request “certified mail with return receipt requested.” Request a copy of complaints of police officers from that agency be mailed to you under the “Freedom of Information Act.” DON’T ever walk into a police station and ask for this information! Police officers either start acting real stupid on the subject or they get mad and start threatening you.
Never file a complaint directly with a police agency specially if the complaint is of a serious nature, see an attorney! If you do plan on hiring an attorney, get one who doesn’t work in your area. Don’t get a lawyer from your town, county or from the surrounding counties. Local lawyers work with same judges, prosecutors and police officers on a daily basis and may not want to win your case as bad as you do.
You may also contactyour State Attorney General. For serious incidents call the ACLU hot line 1-877-634-5454 or contact the Department of Justice Click here for the (DOJ) site.