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How Do I File a Complaint Against the NYC Police?

Police officers are sworn into service with a code of conduct, which requires them to follow procedures and operate with ethical behavior to avoid corruption and abuse of their power. Unfortunately, not all police officers follow these guidelines.

Police brutality, intimidation, coerced false confessions or evidence, witness tampering, racial profiling, unwarranted searches and seizures, and corruption are all types of police misconduct. Meanwhile, police officers themselves face increasing challenges with shortages in departments, hostility towards the honest police officers, and establishing closer ties to the communities they serve.

Though there are issues on both sides of the law, a police officer should never intimidate or coerce you into anything. The NYPD must follow standards to maintain a fair and just peace service. When a police officer abuses that right, you not only can but should file an official complaint. Furthermore, you may want to pursue additional legal action if the officer violated your civil rights when dealing with you.

Can You Protect Yourself When NYC Police Abuse Their Power?

In New York City, the police department works to keep you safe, and while they’ve been given the power and responsibility to maintain public safety, there have been a number of instances in which that power is misused or abused.

If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of a police officer abusing their power or using excessive force, your first step should be to contact the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to file a complaint. Additionally, you can contact the New York City Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau.

The CCRB is not associated with the NYPD; it is an independent agency that allows you to make official complaints against a police officer. The organization investigates any complaints that involve excessive force, discourtesy, offensive language, and/or abuse of authority.

The decisions, or, in some cases, recommendations of the CCRB involve disciplinary actions that could include further training or removal from the New York City police force. The CCRB sends these recommendations to the police commissioner, who makes the final decision on any action that may be taken against a police officer.

Filing a CCRB Complaint

If you have any information about a New York City police officer’s misconduct, you can file a complaint, even if you weren’t the victim directly. There is no age requirement to make a complaint, and the CCRB can accept a complaint in any language. It’s also important to note that you can file a complaint against an NYC police officer even if you are in jail.

The only caveat here is that you should file the complaint as soon as possible after the incident occurred because the Civilian Complaint Review Board can only recommend disciplinary actions within 18 months from the date of the misconduct.

If you or a loved one wants to file a complaint against an NYC police officer, you can call the CCRB at 1-800-341-2272, fill out an online complaint form at the CCRB website, mail in a written letter, or visit the board at 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY. You can also choose to file a complaint at the local police precinct, and they will forward it to the CCRB.

Dealing With the Civilian Complaint Review Board

Once the complaint is filed, an investigator will be assigned to your case and will contact you to investigate any misuse of power. This investigator will likely want to have a meeting with you and get any information you have, such as the time, date, and location of the incident. They will also want the names and contact information of any potential witnesses to the event.

While you can file an anonymous complaint, an investigator will still want to meet with you, so you’ll need to provide your contact information. You can be assured that the police officer will not know who filed the complaint, and officers are required to comply with any investigation.

It’s okay if you don’t know the NYC police officer’s name or badge number. The investigator from the CCRB will be able to identify the officer based on the time and location of the incident. In some cases, your investigator may ask you to look at pictures of the police officer in question for identification purposes.

Types of Police Misconduct

Police are held accountable through codes of conduct. This is set forth in the Police Department Patrol Guide as well as in certain state and federal law. Police misconduct usually breaks down into one of the following categories:

  • False Arrest
  • Deprivation of Civil Rights
  • Malicious Prosecution
  • Excessive Force

False Arrest

The police must have a legal right to make an arrest. They also must follow specific procedures during the arrest, such as reading you your Miranda Rights. Consequently, a false arrest occurs when police lack probable cause yet make an arrest regardless. 

Keep in mind that the U.S. Constitution and New York State Constitution protect you from false arrest in the absence of probable cause for the arrest. The police also cannot deprive you of your right to be “free of unreasonable searches and seizures,” according to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution The police and/or District Attorney cannot bring and pursue criminal charges until your case is heard in court. You have the right to speak to a lawyer before talking to the police.

Malicious Prosecution

Once you have been arrested, the police and/or the District Attorney have a fixed period of time to bring the case to trial. Sometimes the police/District Attorney do not have enough evidence or the proper evidence to prosecute the case. On rare occasions, the police/District attorney will fudge the evidence in order to make a case. The police/District Attorney must bring the case only if they have the evidence to do so. If they do not have the evidence or they improperly obtained the evidence and still insist on prosecuting the case, you may have an action for malicious prosecution. This includes cases in which you might have made a confession. If the confession was coerced or untrue, it is improper. Therefore, any acts to try and coerce or trick you into a confession are illegal. Always demand to speak to a lawyer the moment you get arrested.

Excessive Force

Lastly, police brutality is a hot topic in society for a good reason. Police excessive force is illegal and constitutes misconduct, as well as a violation of your Civil Rights. Police officers cannot use force against you that is more than necessary to effectuate your arrest—but what does that mean? “Excessive force” means that the force used is greater than the threat posed by the arrestee. This may include not only the inappropriate use of deadly force but also any chokehold which restricts breathing. The police cannot sit or stand on your chest to gain compliance or apply handcuffs if such actions are not necessary to facilitate the arrest.

Can I Sue the Police? 

If the police officer did something illegal or violated your civil rights or their Patrol Guide, you can sue the police officer as well as their department. Unfortunately, many folks are scared and worried about speaking out about police misconduct because they fear retaliation. Speaking with a seasoned lawyer from Greenberg & Stein can help set your mind at ease and get you started on the path to seeking justice for police misconduct.

Civil Suits Against the Police

Civil suits against NYPD officers are more common than you might think. Last year, NYC taxpayers unwillingly contributed $230 million to pay off nearly 6,500 lawsuits that were settled by the NYPD in 2019. Over $100 million was paid to victims for police misconduct like false arrest and excessive force. The amount paid in settlements is double what was paid out in 2009. Police misconduct is very real and occurs almost daily in New York City.

Know your rights. You are protected when it comes to:

  • Coerced False Confessions
  • False Arrest
  • False Imprisonment
  • Falsification of Evidence
  • Intimidation
  • Police Brutality
  • Police Corruption
  • Police Perjury
  • Racial Profiling
  • Spoliation of Evidence
  • Unwanted Surveillance
  • Unwanted Searches and Seizures
  • Witness Tampering

Civil suits are generally the only way to receive justice and compensation for your injuries, as well as any emotional damages caused by the incident. Contacting police misconduct lawyers in NYC will provide you with a critical ally when dealing with the powerful and intimidating force that is the NYPD.

Police Misconduct Lawyers in NYC

If you or a loved one have a legitimate complaint against the NYPD, then your next step should be to hire a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced NYC attorney like those at Greenberg & Stein to help you navigate the complex complaint system and ensure that your rights are protected. We will investigate any and all possible legal recourse available to you.

The lawyers at the law firm of Greenberg & Stein are passionate about standing up for the little guy and have a reputation for taking on and winning even the most difficult of cases. We firmly believe that no one should suffer at the hands of those who were hired to protect and defend the public good, and our team is standing by—ready to help.

We offer a free consultation and a 24-hour phone line, so don’t hesitate to call us if you need a police misconduct lawyer in New York City. Contact us today at 212-681-2535 to schedule your free legal consultation.