Addressing police misconduct

Addressing police misconduct

Introduction

Despite the fact that duties and responsibilities of police department are usually dangerous and most of difficult, most police officers are committed to their jobs, which they discharge with humility and respect. Their jobs mainly entail offering services to the communities with the main aim of maintaining law and order. However, it is worth noting that in order to discharge their duties, they are expected to comply with the stipulated laws. In this respect, there have been cases or situations that may force the police workforce to discharge their functions while neglecting certain laws (U.S Department of Justice, 2015). According to the law, any action committed by police officers while neglecting law is usually termed as police misconduct. There is an established document seeking to address such misconducts besides detailing steps that assists individuals file complaints with the DOJ in cases where individuals feel that certain police officers have violated their rights (U.S Department of Justice, 2015).

Situation(s) and/or event(s) that led up to DOJ oversight in the form of a consent decree/agreement and case study

A consent decree is normally the settlement enclosed in a court order. The court has the authority to order injunctive relief against the defendants while at the same time agreeing to maintain a certain level of jurisdiction over a particular case (Fitzgerald, 2000). This is meant to ensure that the laid down settlement is complied with. It is important to note that injective relief referrers to any remedy that the court imposes whereby the party involved is instructed to do or not do anything. This means that in situations where parties fail to obey or comply with an injective relief are assumed to be in contempt with the court and may be imposed additional penalties (Fitzgerald, 2000).

Generally, plaintiffs prefer consent decrees during lawsuits since they have the power and authority of the court behind agreements. In addition, those defendants who may want to avoid publicity choose such agreements because they limit the damaging details brought about by exposure (Fitzgerald, 2000). However, claims of criticism in regards to the consent decrees indicate that there is too much power that is normally asserted over the defendants by the federal district courts. Additionally, these critics tend to contend that there are conditions imposed by the federal courts on local and state government as far as civil rights cases are concerned, which usurp the powers imposed by the courts (Harrison, Cragg,  & Williams, 2005).

Various events or situations have forced the DOJ oversight to establish a consent agreement in the United States. For instance, in January 13th, 2012 the justice department indicated that it had decided to investigate police department (WPD) of the city of Warren, Ohio. The announcement was made after an investigation that led to the establishment of agreement that was filed with the United States District Court. This investigation was mainly tasked with determining whether the WPD had indeed engaged in unlawful or unconstitutional policing actions by using excessive force (U.S Department of Justice, 2012).

Throughout this particular investigation, the WPD was forced to offer undue corporation in order to establish accurate outcomes. However, the outcome of the investigation did not favor the WPD because the investigations established that indeed the WPD had engaged in police practices or patters that involved excessive force, thus violating the Fourth Amendment as set forth in the United States constitution (U.S Department of Justice, 2012). Moreover, the policing actions discharged by the WPD did not only violate the constitution but also Law Enforcement as well as Violent Crime Control Act of 1994. Consequently, the WPD, the Justice Department as well as the City of Warren was forced to reach an agreement that was intended to resolve the Justice Department’s investigations, once implemented.

In order to develop sustainable reform the created agreement required the WPD to move on with the creation and implementation of how the workforce would use force protocols as well as policies. Moreover the WPD was required to ensure that there are systems in place that evaluate and document instances where force is used by the police force. Besides, these systems are expected to track and evaluate any complains set forth by the citizens for developing investigations in an effective and prompt manner (U.S Department of Justice, 2012). However, the most important requirement was the development of workforce training on constitutional and effective policing actions on various situations, to avoid cases of negligence in regards to law.

This case study indicates that effective constitutional policing and general policing normally go hand in hand. This means that there is a great need for the creation and implementation of reforms that are meaningful through the agreements such as the ones established by the Warren city’s WPD workforce and the DOJ oversight (U.S Department of Justice, 2012). However, such agreements are only established through cooperative agreements aimed at reducing crime, defending the constitution as well as building high levels of community confidence to the police workforce who should be committed to discharging policing actions fairly while at the same time effectively applying law enforcement. More important to note is the fact that similar police misconduct as seen in Warren city had been experienced for considerably longer periods and thus, meant that causing reforms would take time. However, this could be fixed more easily if there is close collaborative efforts between the police force and the residents of Warren city (Harrison et al., 2005).

Provisions of the consent decree/agreement

The first main provision is the fact that an individual or individuals working in the police force are strictly prohibited by law from willfully conspiring or depriving another person or persons any right that is protected by the laws of the United States or by the constitution. The term ‘color of law’ indicates or symbolizes the fact that an individual commits acts using the power that is awarded to him or her by a recognized government agency in local, state or federal levels (Harrison et al., 2005). Therefore, any law-enforcing officer is expected to commit acts by strictly observing the provisions indicated under the color of law. This is applicable even in situations where such an individual seeks to exceed his or her legal powers.

Consequently, the sort of law enforcement misconducts that are enclosed by these provisions may include sexual assault, force, and intentional fabrications of evidence as well as intentional false arrests that may result in the loss of liberty of another person. Besides, it is important to note such provisions do not necessitate any kind of religious, racial or other discriminatory reasons that exist (Fitzgerald, 2007). As far as remedies are concerned, any person violating these provisions is punishable by way of imprisonments or fines. In addition, there do not exist any legal provisions that allow any individual to file a suit on his or her own.

Moreover, police misconduct provision makes it illegal or unlawful for local or state law enforcing officer to practice or engage in a practice or a pattern of conduct that tends to deprive any individual his or her rights that are protected by laws of the United States or by the constitution. In this case, law enforcing officers are prohibited from making false arrests, using excessive force, coercive sexual conduct, and discriminatory harassment as well as from making unlawful arrests or searches (Fitzgerald, 2007).. However, it is important to note that in order to be fully protected by the provision, the alleged misconduct is supposed to constitute a practice or pattern. This means that such misconduct must not be an isolated incident.

Therefore, the DOJ will be forced by the court to demonstrate the fact that the agency has unlawful policy or the fact that such incidents contributed to a visible pattern of conducts that are unlawful. This particular civil provision is differentiated from other civil provisions in that the DOJ is not obligated to demonstrate occurrences of any discrimination when proving practice or pattern of misconduct (U.S Department of Justice, 2012). In addition, this particular civil provision do not provide any kind of monetary relief as far as remedies are concerned for victims of misconduct. This is because it advocates for an injunctive relief such as changes in agency’s policies as well as procedures, which promote the said misconduct and orders to end misconducts (United States, 2001). Besides, it is worth to noting that it is only DOJ that is capable of filing suits for any alleged violations in place of private right of action where Police Misconduct Provision is concerned.

The OJP Program Statute and Civil Rights Act of 1964 provision make illegal for any kind of discriminatory acts performed by local or state law enforcing officers on basis of color, sex, race, origin as well as religion (U.S Department of Justice, 2012). This is particularly by those law-enforcing agencies who receive financial assistance directly from the Department of Justice. It is important to note that most individuals are typically being served by agencies, which normally receive funding from the Department of Justice. Moreover, these provisions also make it illegal for practices or patterns of discriminatory misconduct including individual instances (U.S Department of Justice, 2015).

This means that law-enforcing officers are prohibited from offering different treatments to individuals on the basis of color, sex, national, race or religion. Included as part of misconducts covered in this particular provision is; coercive sexual conducts, discriminatory traffic stops, racial slurs, participating in the investigations, unjustified arrests, refusal to respond any alleged complains by agencies as well as any kind of treatment that has elements of discrimination by the law enforcing officers. Various remedies are available in case of violations of the provisions and may include individual remedial relief for victims (U.S Department of Justice, 2015). Additionally, victims possess a private right of action as far as these provisions are concerned. nevertheless, it is important to note that victims of such provisions are forced to exhaust their administrative remedies by way of filing necessary complains with the Department of Justice, where such a victim intends to file suits in Federal Courts as far as the OJP Program Statute is concerned (U.S Department of Justice, 2015).

Conclusion

It is important to note that federal laws are established in order to address police misconducts that may include both civil and criminal statutes. These federal laws are reinforced in county, state as well as in local levels such as police workforce who work in jails and prisons. Further, there are specific laws that are intended to address issues arising from police officers working at federal levels. More importantly, these laws are established and reinforced with the core purpose of offering protection to every individual in the United States who may be citizens or non-citizens. Therefore, any person suspecting to have his or her rights violated by police officers is typically referred to as a victim according to the DOJ investigations. Moreover, such an individual is regarded as a crucial witness during such investigations (U.S Department of Justice, 2015). The outcomes of DOJ’s investigations are normally outlined to such victims however; the investigating team cannot offer any legal advice to victims, as they do not function as lawyers.

References

Fitzgerald, S. (2007). Police brutality. Detroit: Greenhaven Press/Thomson Gale.

Fitzgerald, T. J. (2000). Police in society. New York: H.W. Wilson.

Harrison, J., Cragg, S., & Williams, H. (2005). Police misconduct: Legal remedies. London: Legal Action Group.

United States. (2001). Medicare fraud and abuse: DOJ has improved oversight of False Claims Act guidance : report to congressional committees. Washington, D.C. (P.O. Box 37050: The Office.

U.S Department of Justice. (2015) Addressing Police Misconduct Laws Enforced By The Department Of Justice. Retrieved from> https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice. Date Accessed. April 25, 2017.

U.S Department of Justice. (2012) Justice Department Settles with Warren, Ohio, Police Department. Retrieved from> https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-warren-ohio-police-department. Date Accessed. April 25, 2017.

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