Police misconduct is a very real problem in New York City — and throughout the country. It is often not possible to depend on officers to do their duty.
Because of this, individual citizens often have to go to great lengths to protect their rights before, during and after arrest. The duty should never fall to a citizen to de-escalate a conflict — that is the job of police. A recent Freedom of Information Law request shows a historical pattern of claims that officers are not upholding this primary responsibility.
The misconduct data
The New York Civil Liberties Union recently compiled records of over 300,000 complaints of police misconduct. This was public record, but the NYCLU needed to submit an official request to obtain the data.
The civil-rights watchdog also made considerable efforts to make the information easy to search. Currently, interested citizens can find complaints by officer name, date and several other factors. The complaints have four categories:
- Abuse of authority
- Offensive language
The problem of police misconduct
Police misconduct is a serious problem. It could easily blur the lines between a legitimate arrest and a blatant abuse of power.
For example, the ACLU lists a series of things to do during an arrest. The list mentions following an officer’s commands as a way to reduce risk. This is because proper police conduct requires officers to avoid using force if the suspect does not resist. When law enforcement agents do not follow the rules of conduct, there is no longer any guarantee that compliance would result in lower risk.
Officers who ignore the rules endanger the lives of citizens, the credibility of the legal system and their own positions of authority. They may also severely damage the case the prosecution had against the arrestee — if there were any valid reasons for the arrest in the first place.