How Do I File a Complaint Against the Police?

Legal Representation for Victims of Civil Rights Violations in New York City

We trust the police to protect our communities. Police misconduct presents a serious problem and is terrifying for the individuals who are targeted. If you are subject to civil rights violations in the form of a false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution, or racial profiling, you may be wondering how to file a complaint against the police. There are a number of ways for civilians to file a complaint based on police misconduct in New York City, and a civil rights attorney can advise you on your options.

In all instances, it is prudent to consult an attorney before making a statement. The statements you make can adversely affect criminal charges filed against you as well as any civil claim for damages or a demand for a change in police policy. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced attorneys can review your case and develop an appropriate strategy for your situation.

Filing a Complaint Against the Police

The first issue when determining how to file a complaint against the police is what type of misconduct is at issue. Your attorney can review the facts to decide whether you should file a federal lawsuit, file a state lawsuit, file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) of the NYPD, or pursue some combination of these options.

If the misconduct is serious and you have incurred damages, such as medical bills or lost income, you may be able to file a federal or state lawsuit. When police misconduct is alleged, police officers may rally behind the officer's version of events, even if it is not true. Therefore, it may be critical to the success of your case to retain an experienced attorney right away who can determine whether your case is solely against the police, or whether it should also be brought against supervisors and the municipality. There is a shortened window of time within which to provide notice to a municipality that it is being sued under state common law.

When serious police misconduct is at issue, it may also be appropriate to file a complaint with the CCRB, through your attorney. The CCRB is a civilian board, independent from the police department but with subpoena power, that investigates and makes findings about four types of police misconduct: force, abuses of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. The first category, excessive force claims, often gives rise to claims for damages that may be pursued in court.

The IAB investigates claims of serious police misconduct or corruption, and it is part of the police department. In some cases, it may be appropriate to file a complaint with the IAB. For example, if an officer steals your wallet, it would be appropriate to file a theft complaint with the IAB. However, if an officer steals your wallet and also pepper sprays you, you may need to file the theft part of your claim with the IAB and the force part of your claim with the CCRB.

Consult a New York City Attorney After an Incident of Police Misconduct

While you can file a complaint with the CCRB or the IAB by yourself, it is not advisable. Filing a complaint against the police in any form can be extremely challenging. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights lawyers offer experienced representation for people throughout New York City, from Manhattan and the Bronx to Brooklyn and Queens. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or contact us through our online form.

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