The police officer is your friend. This is a popular aphorism and the message here is that you do not have to fear the policeman as long as you are a law abiding citizen. The job description of the average police officer covers a lot of ground. Apart from maintaining law and order, police officers carry out investigations, arrest and prosecute offenders. Because these officers wield so much power, some police officers may be tempted to abuse their powers. Now, the law will not condone abuse of power by police officers. This is why there are statutes to deal with police misconduct.
Police and Suspect Relations
If you are investigating a suspect, you cannot afford to get emotionally involved with the suspect. A police officer should be objective and impartial. For this reason, a personal involvement with anybody under investigation is prohibited. In cases where a male police officer gets emotionally involved with a female suspect, the relevant authority will sanction the officer in question.
Bribery and Corruption
A police officer should maintain the highest ethical standards all the time. It is a fact that many police officers are exposed to temptation in the course of their duties. In a high profile case of fraud or embezzlement of public funds, the suspects may offer police officers a hefty bribe. The honorable course of action here is to reject the bribe but not all police officers are honorable. In cases where a police man is indicted for taking or soliciting a bribe, the officer in question should be sanctioned and punished.
Collusion with Criminal Elements
One thing a police officer should never do is collude with criminals to pervert the course of justice. This is a serious crime because it might destroy the foundation of the criminal justice system. If a police officer is found guilty of this particular misconduct, he or should face the wrath of the law. In this context, collusion might take the form of destroying evidence, giving false testimony or hiring witnesses to give false evidence.
Lack of Diligent Prosecution
In the American criminal justice system, every accused person is presumed innocent until he or she is convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction. Getting a conviction in court largely depends on diligent prosecution by the police or the ministry of justice. If an accused person evades justice because the case was not properly prosecuted, the officer responsible for this police misconduct will be punished or even dismissed from service.
A police officer wields enormous power but power is needs to be tempered with responsibility. This is why police officers are trained to be responsible in the discharge of their duties. However, some police officers get carried away and commit offences that infringe on the rights of other citizens. When this happens, such officers can be charged for abuse of power. Below are some examples of police misconduct.
Excessive force is one form of police misconduct that generates a lot of reaction from the society. This is because it usually results in physical injury, disability or even death. A police officer may shoot a suspect in self-defense if that suspect is armed or attempts to attack the officer. However, in cases where the police officer shoots an unarmed person, the officer in question is liable and may be prosecuted. It is important to point out that result takes precedence over intentions in cases of excessive force. If the police officer had good intentions but used unreasonable force, he or she will still be liable.
A malicious prosecution claim against a police officer may be substantiated under the following conditions. The police officer in question commenced criminal proceedings against another party. The proceedings ended in favor of that other party (there was no conviction). The police officer accused of malicious prosecution could not show probable cause. The proceeding was brought with malicious intentions toward the victim.
Failure to Intervene
Police officers have a duty to protect members of the society from violations of the constitution by other officers. In cases where an officer fails to protect any citizen from constitutional violations by fellow officers, that police officer may be charged with failure to intervene. Clearly, failure to intervene is an abuse of power but it is difficult to prove because police officers generally stick together and close ranks when one of them is threatened.
A case of false arrest may be preferred against a police officer if the victim has cogent grounds. If the officer violated the Fourth Amendment right of the victim, there are grounds for a case of false arrest. In addition, the victim must show that the arresting police officer in this context had no probable cause.
Police officers are trained to enforce the law and not to abuse it. In cases where a case of misconduct has been established against a law enforcement agent, that officer should be punished because this will serve as a deterrent to other officers.