A U.S. judge sentenced a former Honolulu police officer Wednesday to four years in prison for forcing a homeless man to lick a public urinal. telling him to imagine someone doing that to his (the officer’s) two young daughters. The homeless man was just as defenseless and powerless as the children of defendant John Rabago, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said. “You took from him his only possession: his dignity as a human being,” Kobayashi said.

Oath to serve and protect.

Rabago had taken an oath as a police officer to protect and defend, but instead took advantage of someone poor and homeless, when a nuisance call ended with Rabago grabbing a homeless man’s shoulder, holding him down and stepping on his legs to keep him on his knees until he licked a urinal under the threat of being beaten. “To be homeless, not knowing where your next meal is going to be, to be forced to lick a dirty urinal by a uniformed police officer. There’s only one word that comes to mind: hopelessness,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brady said.

Citizen rights.

Communities should be aware of illegal activities surrounding police brutality among their police departments and take actions against them.  The color of law refers to an act done under the appearance of legal authorization, when in fact, no such right existed. The term is used in the federal Civil Rights Act, which gives citizens the right to sue government officials and their agents who use their authority to violate rights guaranteed by federal law and states:

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”

Police misconduct.

Police misconduct involves the violation of the civil rights of a person and often the violation of both State and Federal laws. While the outcomes of misconduct may not be as serious as excessive force, they are still illegal actions against citizens.  When misguided police officers overstep legal boundaries of their job, it is imperative that a victim file a report as soon as possible to the police force of the offending officer, and/or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Seek legal counsel.

Legal counsel can assist with a formal complaint against a department and when necessary, take action to file a lawsuit against the officer who caused affront against a citizen.