You have likely read about or seen a video of the pool party incident in McKinney, Texas. A police officer drew a gun on a group of teenagers, then threw a 14-year-old girl to the ground and cuffed her. Witnesses captured the incident on video and it has since gone viral.
It brings up the question of what avenues are available to address these incidents in which you suspect police misconduct in the state of Texas.
Request An Internal Investigation
Internal complaints are the only avenue, outside of a criminal conviction, by which a police officer can be disciplined or terminated due to misconduct.
All police departments allow civilians to file complaints about individual police officers. These complaints are sent to the internal affairs division and investigated internally. The person making the complaint only hears the outcome at the end.
The downside to filing an internal complaint is that it rarely leads to a police officer being disciplined or terminated. In many cases, the only thing that happens is that the complaint goes on the officer's internal file.
Make A Criminal Complaint
Civilians have the right to file criminal complaints against an officer at the state or federal level. This involves making a formal written complaint directly to the Texas District Attorney or to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Once the complaint is filed, it is up to the prosecutor whether to pursue the case or not. Many prosecutors decline to pursue police misconduct cases, unless the circumstances are outrageous.
If the case goes forward, the chances of the officer being found guilty and given an appropriate sentence are slim. Grand juries seldom indict police officers. Juries rarely find officers guilty. And judges infrequently give stiff penalties to convicted police officers.
File A Civil Suit
Civil lawsuits are the most common avenue pursued by victims of police misconduct.
During a civil suit, all parties can be called for deposition. That includes the defendants, their supervisors, and fellow officers that witnessed the incident. The plaintiff's attorney can request all documents pertaining to the case and develop a full picture of what occurred.
Pursuing monetary damages through a civil lawsuit actually make a difference. It can lead to changes in the way the department hires, trains, and manages the officers. It can cause changes in internal policies dealing with officer misconduct. It can deter other officers from repeating the actions that lead to the complaint in the first place.
If you have been involved in an incident of police misconduct, the first step you need to take is talking with an attorney. The attorneys here at Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas, can help.