The taxpaying public expects police officers to protect and serve those with whom they interact.
This does not always occur. The U.S. Department of Justice outlines four key aspects of law enforcement misconduct, also referred to as abuse of power.
During the course of an arrest, or while an individual is in police custody, officers must only use the type of force that is necessary to arrest or gain control of the subject. Excessive use of force can be a felony, especially if the officer uses a deadly weapon.
A police officer who touches an individual inappropriately while in the course of duty may have abused their power. A person in police custody retains the constitutional right of bodily integrity. This means that nonconsensual touching, forced contact and groping are violations of the law.
Deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition
This protection applies not only to those who have a medical condition but also to those whom police put in harm’s way while they are in custody. If a police officer knowingly puts an individual in a situation where the person is likely to suffer (such as an overcrowded, unsafe holding cell), a court may hold the officer accountable.
Failure to intervene
Finally, omission of a good deed is often held to be as bad as the commission of a bad act. An officer who “looks the other way” while another officer violates the law is equally as culpable as the violent actor himself. A court may prosecute those who had an opportunity to intervene to prevent harm but chose to abstain.
If you see something, say something. Know your rights.