There are a number of different ways police officers can be disciplined for various kinds of misconduct while on duty. The department can choose to suspend them without pay, place them on administrative leave, transfer them, or terminate their employment for most offenses. In cases of police beatings and unlawful killings, a prosecutor can choose to file charges against the officer for these actions if they are serious enough to become criminal behavior. One specific charge that can be filed against police and government employees under Kentucky law is official misconduct.
Lexington Police Sergeant stalks a local woman with police resources
Lexington Police Sergeant Jervis Middleton was charged, but ultimately acquitted of official misconduct for stalking behavior. The sergeant had previously been accused by a woman of using surveillance and other law enforcement resources to track her whereabouts. After the complaint was investigated by the department, formal charges were filed against Middleton due to the fact that he had repeatedly used government law enforcement resources to obtain information about the woman without a legitimate investigative purpose. He was suspended and placed on administrative leave while the incident was pending, but at the conclusion of a criminal trial in the Fayette County courts, the jury returned a not guilty verdict.
What is official misconduct?
According to Chapter 522.030 of the Kentucky Statutes, there are three possibilities for charging a government employee or official with misconduct. If a public servant commits an act that is an unauthorized exercise of official functions, refrains from performing any duty required by the office, or violates any statute or rule related to the office, charges are brought. Basically, this means that when someone abuses their authority, refuses to perform their job duties, or violates rules regulating their position, a local prosecutor can bring a case against them. This charge is a misdemeanor under Kentucky law.
In the story above, the officer who was charged was ultimately never convicted or sentenced. This is important to keep in mind, as criminal convictions against police officers are an infrequent occurrence. However, despite the fact that this woman may not receive justice in the criminal courts, there are still other actions that can be taken against police who engage in this kind of behavior.
The option of a civil lawsuit
The fact that the criminal case did not result in any punishment has no bearing on the ability to file a civil lawsuit. In many cases people who are beaten by police, shot, falsely arrested, sexually harassed, or otherwise become victims of their actions in any other manner are best protected by the civil courts. Winning a judgment in court has a lower burden of proof in the civil setting than in a criminal trial. There is also the possibility of an officer’s employing department settling the case to make the negative publicity of an incident of improper behavior go away.
Get help from a local lawyer who has sued the police before and won
If you are in Lexington or nearby parts of Kentucky, there are experienced local attorneys who are experts in the law of official misconduct and police misconduct. You can speak with them about any improper actions by police and receive advice about how to proceed, including the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the officer and their department.