Police Brutality Facts and Information - PDF by qbj50148

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									            Preparing for the Worst:




              Knowing Your Rights And
              Getting Your Day in Court
                After Police Brutality




A Guide from the American Civil Liberties of New Jersey
A Definition of Police Brutality
When a law enforcement officer uses more force than necessary, it’s considered police brutality. It is
a crime and a civil rights violation, and police can be suspended, fired or arrested for committing it.

Police brutality can be difficult to prosecute. If you are a victim of police brutality, the most
important thing is to document everything as quickly as possible to create a solid body of evidence
of the crime.

Why Police Brutality Is Difficult to Prosecute
Police departments exist to foster public safety, and people usually turn to police officers to report a
crime. But when police officers themselves abuse their power and commit crimes, it can be hard, if
not impossible, to turn to them for help.

This is why documenting the crime with pictures, written statements, medical reports and legal
documentation is crucial. Only an airtight case will succeed.

Rights and Restrictions of Police Officers
Not everything unfair that police officers do is necessarily illegal. There is often a fine line between
police brutality and police work.

Police officers are entitled to:

        Arrest you for breaking the law, either if they have seen the act or have reasonable suspicion
        Arrest you if they have a warrant
        Search you and your immediate surroundings, including your vehicle

But police are never allowed to

        Use excessive or deadly force
        Search you or your car without consent or reasonable suspicion
        Harass homeless people, young people, racial and ethnic minorities or members of the
        LGBT community based on their status alone
        Use unnecessary aggression for simple offenses, including conducting a body search when
        one is not warranted
        Conduct illegal mass stops and arrests or demand photo IDs without a reason
What You Should Do If You Are a Victim of Police Brutality
During the Incident:
Your goal during the incident is not to be arrested, to remember everything you can, to
escape the situation peacefully and to avoid violence.

       Be as compliant as possible, and resist the urge to run, argue or express anger. If the police
       officer believes you pose a threat – or can convince other people that you were threatening –
       your case becomes much weaker.
       Memorize the badge number and name of the officer and officers
       Say as little as possible, because what you say can be used against you
       Remember concrete details that can back up your story

Immediately After the Incident:
Your goal after the incident is to create a record of the events. The police officer is not on
your side, so you will need other professionals – including legal, medical and criminal
justice experts – as well as witnesses and your memory to support the facts of your story.

       Write down everything about the incident as soon as possible, so critical details are fresh in
       your mind. If your story changes, it will be more difficult to fight your case.
       Take pictures of any injuries you received from the police officer. They will be invaluable.
       Talk to any witnesses and get their names and contact information. If you can find a pen and
       paper, get witnesses to write a statement of the events. Keep it as evidence.
       Seek medical attention. Not only will you be treated, but your medical report can be used in
       court to back up your story. It’s that much more believable if a doctor has officially
       documented your injuries.
       Contact a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, the state and nonprofit organizations can provide
       you with one or help you find one.
       Report abuse to authorities. The internal affairs unit of state and local police departments
       and the county prosecutor’s office all have ways to report police abuse. Even if they can’t
       help you, your record of reporting the incident can help you in court.

If You Are Arrested and Taken into Custody after the Abuse:
Your goal is to talk to legal and medical experts as quickly as possible and avoid confessing
anything, no matter what police officers tell you.

       Request medical attention for your injuries. This can help you keep a record and show the
       severity of your injuries.
       Request to speak with a lawyer. If you can meet with one, tell your story immediately. The
       lawyer can help you or direct you to resources that can help.
       Do not speak to police officers or interrogators without talking to a lawyer. Your case will
       hold little weight if you confess under coercion. Even if police officers offer you a deal or
       tell you they have evidence that you committed a crime, do not respond or confess to
        anything. Police officers are allowed to lie during interrogations, and you, not them, will be
        held responsible if you respond to their false information.

Reporting to Internal Affairs and Other Authorities
Internal Affairs divisions are units in police departments responsible for investigating reports of
police misconduct. All levels of police departments – from local to state – have internal affairs units.

Internal affairs units investigate police abuse, but according to a Human Rights Watch study, these
investigations often do not solve problems with abusive officers.

Still, reporting claims to internal affairs is a major part of responding to police brutality. Like other
actions immediately following an incident, writing a report can be used to help you in court.

When you submit your claim in writing, also send copies to city officials, county prosecutors, the
state attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice – these agencies may be able to help you.
The complaints should include as much detail as possible, including:

        A detailed description of the incident, including the time, place and order of events
        The name, badge number and physical description of any officer involved
        The names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses
        If medical treatment was required, the name of the examining doctor and the hospital or
        clinic you attended
        Copies of photographs taken of any injuries from the incident. Be sure not to send the
        original copies so you can have a set to keep for evidence.

Keep copies of all documentation and correspondence, so you can prove that you filed reports.
Government Resources
New Jersey State Police, Internal Affairs Investigation Bureau
The Internal Affairs Investigation Bureau investigates complaints against New Jersey State Police
officers. It should be one of the first agencies you contact, whether at the local or state level. You
should do this with the help of your attorney because there are some pitfalls.

P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628

609-882-2000
877-253-4125

Local internal affairs units
You can call the main number for your local police department and ask to be transferred to the
internal affairs unit.

New Jersey Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations
If you’re a victim of police brutality because of bias – because of your race, sex, sexual orientation –
this agency will help you navigate your legal options.

Hotline: 1-800-277-2427 (1-800-277-BIAS)
24-Hour Hotline: 609-273-9243
http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/obccr/

New Jersey Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy
This office can find services available for victims of crime, refer you to social agencies and help you
write your statement about the crime.

Department of Law and Public Safety
Division of Criminal Justice
Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy
P.O. Box 085
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Phone: 609-292-8372
Fax: 609-341-2077
http://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/victimwitness/
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
The criminal section can investigate and prosecute police misconduct complaints. The Criminal
Section does not take every case, so this should not be your only response to police brutality.

Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Criminal Section, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
202-514-3204
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/index.html

Nonprofit Resources
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
The ACLU-NJ defends the Constitution and fights for civil rights. It represents only a small number
of clients each year, but if it can’t help, it can guide you to resources.

ACLU-NJ
P.O. Box 32159
Newark, New Jersey 07102
973-642-2084
www.aclu-nj.org

New Jersey State Bar Association
The New Jersey State Bar Association can refer you to a lawyer who specializes in the type of case
you need services for.

NJSBA
New Jersey Law Center
One Constitution Square
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901
Tel: 732 249-5000
Fax 732 249-2815
http://www.njsba.com/

American Friends Service Committee
The AFSC can help you file complaints for victims of police brutality in correctional facilities.

AFSC
89 Market Street, 6th floor
Newark, NJ 07102
973-643-1924
http://www.afsc.org/nymetro/newark.htm
Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ)
Legal Services provides free legal assistance to low-income people in civil matters. You must be
financially eligible to qualify, and representation is not guaranteed.

LSNJ
P.O. Box 1357
Edison, NJ 08818
1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529)

People’s Organization for Progress
The People's Organization for Progress has a statewide campaign to mobilize and demonstrate
against police brutality and racial violence. It does not offer legal representation, but it can help
victims and families and increase the visibility of legal issues through protests and activism.

POP
PO Box 22505
Newark, N.J. 07101
Tel: (973)-643-7711 or (973)-801-0001
http://www.njpop.org/

Police Complaint Center
The PCC assists victims of police misconduct. It helps document and investigate police misconduct
and helps file complaints against law enforcement. It offers counseling, investigates and helps to
report incidents, conducts interviews and helps submit Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA).

PCC
1220 L St. NW, Suite 100-164
Washington D.C., 20005
(202) 359-6406
http://www.police abuse.com

								
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