The definition of police harassment hinges on the mistreatment of citizens by police, in
any way, shape, or form. While law enforcement officers are fully within their rights when they
speak to citizens under reasonable suspicion of a crime, harassment occurs when officers
purposefully take steps beyond what is reasonable in order to make their target feel
uncomfortable and unsafe (“Police Harassment Law and Legal Definition”). One of the best
ways to deal with police harassment and other forms of police misconduct is to file a complaint
with the department of the officer or officers in question.
Police harassment as an issue in society stems from the fact that law enforcement officers
are supposed to be agents of order and law. When police harassment occurs, officers who are
entrusted with the power to enforce law abuse their position, taking advantage of their abilities to
hurt those they are supposed to be protecting. Officers who purposefully profile the people they
choose to search, for instance, or use excessive force when dealing with detainees, are violating
the rights of the citizens in their cities and therefore harassing them (“Harassment Law and Legal
Harassment can be similar to police misconduct, though misconduct is usually a more
serious offense. Regardless, victims of either misconduct or harassment can file a complaint
against the police officer who violated their rights. When filing a complaint, the best process to
follow is detailed by Flex Your Rights, an educational nonprofit that works to teach the public
about the best ways to respond to police encounters.
First, a victim of harassment or misconduct must write down the details of their
encounter with the police. This step is vital; it allows victims to have a reliable narrative to
refresh their memories in the future, when they file a complaint or take legal action against the
law enforcement officer. Details like a description of the officer, the location of the encounter,
and the sequence of events in the encounter are especially helpful. The purpose of recording
these details is to prevent the loss of information later on, since the human memory is not perfect
(“How do I report police misconduct?”).
After a victim has recorded the events and the specific details surrounding them, they
must decide if they intend to sue or work against a crime they have been unfairly charged with.
In either of these cases, the recruitment of an attorney is a wise decision. Sometimes, officers
who are aware they have acted improperly attempt to cover up their actions, and an attorney is a
valuable tool to help victims know how to confront issues with law enforcement in this way. For
instance, an attorney could help advise a victim who is choosing to take a police officer to court
how to keep from revealing exactly what instance misconduct they will be filing a case against,
which in turn could prevent the police officer or officers involved from attempting to cover up
their actions (“How do I report police misconduct?”).
Regardless of whether or not legal action is involved, any victim of police misconduct
should eventually file a police misconduct report. While a report of this nature may not result in
an instant response from a victim’s local police department, it allows the incident to be put on the
record, which may help with later investigations into the conduct of individual officers or the
department as a whole.
The filing of a police misconduct report varies depending upon which city and state a
victim lives in. For instance, in Moscow, Idaho, my town, a complaint can be filed only by phone
in a discussion with a police supervisor; no option is given for written complaints to be filed
(“Frequently Asked Questions”). The Moscow Police Department’s Frequently Asked Questions
page provides the phone number to be called in the case of a police misconduct complaint.
However, in other cities, it may be possible to file a misconduct report by mail alone, or by mail
Sometimes, a police misconduct complaint can be fortified by more than just a detailed
report that the victim has previously compiled, though that aspect is still vital to an accurate
representation of the law enforcement encounter. For instance, if a video has been filmed of
some sort of harassment, such as a police officer calling a person they are detaining a racial slur,
the video might be a good addition to a filed complaint. It is usually better for the person filing
the complaint to have more information, rather than risk leaving out something important.
On a whole, police misconduct and harassment should not occur. Law enforcement
officers should do their jobs without making poor choices about their ability to harass and violate
the rights of the people they should be protecting. However, the world is not perfect, and police
misconduct and harassment will continue to occur. It is precisely because of this, and the fact
that these occurrences should not happen, that police misconduct reports are so important. With
more information about negative encounters in the past, law enforcement agencies can work to
avoid them in the future.
“Frequently Asked Questions.” City of Moscow , Moscow Police Department,
www.ci.moscow.id.us/police/Pages/faq.aspx#actions. Accessed 30 Sept. 2017.
“Harassment Law and Legal Definition.” US Legal , US Legal,
definitions.uslegal.com/h/harassment/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2017.
“How do I report police misconduct?” Flex Your Rights , Flex Your Rights,
www.flexyourrights.org/faqs/how-to-report-police-misconduct/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2017.
“Police Harassment Law and Legal Definition.” US Legal , US Legal,
definitions.uslegal.com/p/police-harassment/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2017.