If you have suffered misconduct from a police officer, you should have the right to file a complaint against them. Unfortunately, this process is not always easy. In this post, we will explore how both police intimidation tactics as well as Florida law work to deter citizen complaints and shield officers from accountability.
Police station intimidation
A recent investigative report examined the process of filing a police complaint in Florida. In some cities, like Tallahassee, this process was as simple as walking into the police station and filling out a citizen’s police complaint form – no questions asked. However, in many police stations in South Florida, the experience was quite different.
The investigative reporter went to more than a dozen police stations across South Florida and made a simple inquiry about the process of filing a complaint against an officer. The responses the reporter received were overwhelmingly negative. Officers often became defensive and intimidating. One officer followed him out of the station and down the block, with his hand on his gun and using threatening language. Another even threatened him with jail time.
Privileged treatment of officers
If a complaint is successfully filed, and the station decides to pursue an investigation, Florida law gives privileges to the officer in question that help to protect them from facing any real consequences for their actions:
The officer has access to all evidence prior to the investigation. This includes:
- Witness statements
- Photographic or video evidence
- The full name of the person who complained
The citizen complaint will then be brought to the Complaint Review Board. Here, too, the officer has privileges under the law that could sway the result in their favor:
The Complaint Review Board is comprised of three members. The officer under investigation has the right to choose one member to serve on the board. This could be a friend on the force who has allegiance to the aggrieved officer. The second member of the board is chosen by the agency’s chief administrator. The third member is chosen by the other two members of the board – the chief administrator and the aggrieved officer’s friend.
This makes it likely that at least two of the three members of the board will not be impartial.
Sometimes, the criminal justice system can feel far from just. It may seem as though law enforcement officers can behave with impunity. However, this is not the case. If you suffered police misconduct in the course of criminal proceedings against you, it’s important to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn how you may be able to use this to your advantage in your case.