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What is Police Misconduct?


The duty of all police officers is to protect their community by enforcing the law, making arrests, issuing tickets, responding to distress calls, and testifying at trial. Unfortunately, there are many cases where law enforcement abuses their power, resulting in the violation of citizens’ rights.

When police officers go too far, victims of this type of misconduct can file a claim with the state and federal courts. From the U.S. Constitution to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, there are many laws which protect citizens from government abuse, which includes police misconduct.

The following are common examples of police misconduct:

  1. False arrest – Considered the most common form of police misconduct, this occurs when law enforcement violates an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Police are not allowed to make an arrest without establishing probable cause or a warrant. The victim must prove the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause.
  2. Physical assault – The most common example of physical assault is when a police officer uses excessive force while apprehending the alleged suspect. If an officer is accused of using excessive force during an arrest or while the victim is in jail, the victim must prove that law enforcement used more force than reasonably required to arrest or apprehend the victim. If an officer uses excessive force on a convicted prisoner, the victim must prove that he/she was physically assaulted by an officer as a punishment, retaliation, or otherwise as a means to inflict harm—as opposed to protecting the safety of other officers or maintaining order in the jail/prison.
  3. Sexual misconduct – Police officers who make nonconsensual sexual contact with anyone who is in their custody deprives them of the due process of law, including the right to bodily integrity. The victim must prove that he/she did not consent to the officer’s actions and the officer used coercion (i.e. bringing false charges or unjustly punishing the victim) or force to commit the sexual act.
  4. Intentional indifference to a significant risk of harm or serious health condition – Police officers are prohibited from deliberately ignoring a serious risk of harm (i.e. being the victim of an assault by other inmates or law enforcement) or medical condition. The victim needs to prove he/she experienced a significant risk of harm, law enforcement knew about this risk, and law enforcement failed to diminish such risk.
  5. Failure to intervene – This occurs when a police officer fails to stop another officer from violating a victim’s constitutional rights. The victim must prove that the officer knew his/her rights were being violated, had a chance to intervene, and decided against it.

If you have been the victim of police misconduct after being arrested or detained by law enforcement in Wisconsin, our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella is committed to protecting your rights and freedom. Contact us and schedule a free consultation today for more information.

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