What the Department of Justice Do About Police Brutality

Police officers need to be trusted to maintain law and order. Citizens and visitors, children and adults, and people of all races and origins need to be able to trust the police to do their jobs fairly. No one should be hurt by police misconduct.

Police misconduct erodes faith in our law enforcement system, and it is against the law. Accordingly, the Department of Justice has the authority to investigate and take action when it is informed of police misconduct allegations.

Department of Justice Criminal Enforcement

Federal statutes 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242 make it a crime for someone acting on behalf of the government to deprive another person of that person’s constitutional or legal rights. Therefore, a police officer who acts with excessive force, commits sexual assault, or commits another act of police brutality, commits a crime.

As the victim of the crime, you have the right to report the crime to the Department of Justice, but you do not have the right to bring a criminal lawsuit. A criminal lawsuit may only be brought by the government. A criminal case could result in fines or imprisonment for the officer, but it will not include financial compensation for you.

If you would like to file a complaint alleging that a crime has been committed, you can contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), your local United States Attorney’s Office (USAO), or the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Department of Justice Civil Enforcement

In addition to criminal enforcement described above, the Department of Justice also has civil enforcement responsibilities according to several different laws. For example, the Department of Justice can pursue a civil lawsuit if:

  • There is a pattern of police misconduct. 34 U.S.C. §2601 makes it unlawful for a police officer to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their constitutional or legal rights. Only the Department of Justice can bring this type of lawsuit. An individual cannot bring the lawsuit or recover damages. However, the Department of Justice can obtain judicial orders to end the misconduct or change police policies and procedures.
  • There was discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, or religion. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the OJP Program Statute make it illegal for police officers to use excessive force or engage in discriminatory misconduct. The Department of Justice can bring a civil lawsuit if a police officer violated these laws. As an injured individual, you may also bring a civil lawsuit for damages, but first, you must file a complaint with the Department of Justice.
  • There was discrimination based on disability. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibit discriminatory police treatment, including police misconduct, against people with disabilities. The Department of Justice can seek individual relief on behalf of someone with a disability hurt by misconduct or the individual can file his or her own lawsuit.

Together, these laws provide different ways for the Department of Justice to respond to allegations of police misconduct and brutality. However, as the injured victim of police brutality, you need to inform the Department of Justice about what happened and understand how to protect your own rights.

Protect Your Own Rights After a Police Brutality Injury

The Department of Justice has an important role to play in responding to complaints of police brutality and preventing future incidents of law enforcement misconduct—and you have the most critical role to play in protecting your own rights and recovery.

To make sure that all of your rights are protected and that you get the fair police brutality legal recovery that you deserve, please contact our experienced Iowa police brutality lawyers today for a free, confidential consultation. We will review all of your legal options with you and take all of the necessary steps to protect your rights.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham