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What does the federal Police Misconduct Provision say?

A very important federal law exists in order to prevent instances of police misconduct. The federal Police Misconduct Provision states that it is unlawful for local and/or state law enforcement officers to deny any individual his or her constitutional rights. In this respect, this begs the question: What types of police misconduct are prevented by this piece of legislation?

A wide variety of police misconduct might fall under the jurisdiction of the Police Misconduct Provision. The most common types of behavior covered by law include discriminatory harassment, excessive force, false arrests, sexual misconduct, coercive sexual misconduct, unlawful stops, unlawful arrests, unlawful searches and more.

It is important to note that in order for the above activities to qualify as a violation of the Police Misconduct Provision, they must be carried out as a part of a practice or pattern of misconduct. As such, a single isolated incident is not enough to warrant action under this provision.

Actions under the Police Misconduct Provision can only be brought forward by the Department of Justice -- not by individual persons. One of the ways that the Department of Justice will prove that a pattern of police misconduct exists in these cases is to identify specific written or unwritten policies that regularly resulted in the violation of citizens' constitutional rights.

If it is proven that a Pennsylvania resident was victimized by police misconduct under the Police Misconduct Provision, remedies may be available under the law, but those remedies will not be monetary in nature, and they will not directly benefit the individual person financially. Remedies, however, might include an order for police to immediately stop the misconduct and change their procedures and policies that support the misconduct.

Individual plaintiffs cannot pursue a private right of action to seek financial compensation via this legal provision. However, with the aid of a qualified personal injury attorney, plaintiffs might be able to use evidence from such proceedings to support their own individual personal injury claims relating to instances of misconduct that harmed them.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "Addressing Police Misconduct Laws Enforced by the Department of Justice," accessed March 25, 2016

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