Their job is a dangerous and risky one, which is more of a lifestyle than a simple job. To be able to perform their duties they are granted powers not available to ordinary citizens. The uniform and badge of a police officer automatically imbues their wearer with an air of authority, one that commands respect.
To be worthy of the powers bestowed upon them by the law, police officers must adhere to their responsibilities and duties. They must be held only to the highest standards when it comes to their words and actions. Police officers take an oath to serve the people, and they are expected to uphold this oath. However, the sad reality is that some police officers abuse their power. A police officer, who has performed an inappropriate action or actions unbecoming of a uniformed officer, may be accused of police misconduct. Actions that may be classified as police misconduct include:
Police officers are granted the use of force to enable them to perform their official duties. However, when an officer uses force excessively or wantonly, in a manner that is uncalled for or unjustified, the action crosses the line into police brutality.
Fabrication of Evidence
Police officers have access to crime scenes, which are often cordoned off, closed to the media and the public. It is among their duties to properly catalogue and classify evidence, so that a court may have as much information as possible. However, police officers have been known to forge or tamper with evidence, in order to implicate a suspect. The guilt or the strength of existing evidence against a suspect never justifies the falsification of evidence; even if a police officer is reasonably certain that a suspect is guilty, fabricating or tampering with evidence to strengthen a prosecution’s case is against the law. It is also against the law for police officers to plant evidence at a scene in order to implicate a suspect, or to search an individual illegally.
Using inappropriate or illegal techniques, such as physical or psychological torture, to obtain a confession from a suspect, constitutes police misconduct. A confession that is ruled to be a false confession cannot be considered by a court of law.
If a police officer takes into account the ethnicity or race of an individual when making a decisions on whether or not to perform an official action, they are committing racial profiling. This constitutes police conduct and is illegal in New York, as well as in most jurisdictions.
The act of accepting bribes, or of abusing power in order to facilitate illegal activities, constitutes police corruption. Taking items for personal gain from suspects and victims of crimes constitutes opportunistic theft, a very grave abuse of police power.
The Department Advocate’s Office of the New York Police Department is charged with prosecuting police officers who are accused of violating the public trust. Police misconduct cases are heard in what is called the “NYPD Trial Room,” located on the fourth floor of One Police Plaza. Police officers take an oath to serve and protect, and when they violate that oath, they must be held accountable.