The media and online forums are full with stories of individuals that have been victimized by the police. In Nigeria, the issue of police harassment and abuse is no longer news. Now what can you do to stop police harassment and abuse? You will find out in this article.
The police are empowered by the state to enforce the law, protect lives and property, and limit civil disorder; while abiding by the law themselves. But ironically, in many places today, innocent civilians have fallen victim to various forms of misconduct by the police, who go beyond the boundaries of their job and conduct harassing behavior. It’s only unfortunate that these victims are being terrorized by the same people who should be protecting them in the first place.
Police misconduct, which includes harassment and abuse of civilians, refers to any inappropriate action taken by police officers in connection with their duties. Examples of such inappropriate actions include abuse of power, lying against the accused even when under oath, selective enforcement, false arrest, falsified evidence, intimidation, false imprisonment, police brutality, racial profiling, police corruption, surveillance abuse and so on.
If you have been a victim of police harassment in the past, you would agree that it’s always a frightening and unsettling experience, which makes you feel helpless. And if you don’t do something to stop it, chances are you will fall victim again and again. Below are tips on how you can stop police harassment and abuse:
How to Stop Police Harassment and Abuse
1. Understand your rights
If you don’t understand your rights as a civilian, you will be forced to believe that many wrongdoings by the police are right. And in that case, you won’t even know that you are being victimized. You can visit the nearest police department or contact a well-known police officer to make enquiry about citizen’s rights. Most officers are happy to let you know your rights as a civilian. Alternatively, contact an attorney to make enquiry or get a copy of the constitution or criminal law code for your state or country and learn what your rights are. Equipping yourself with knowledge of what a police officer can do and cannot do to you is your first line of defense against subsequent episodes of police harassment and abuse.
2. File a complaint to at the nearest police department
Visit your nearest police department to report any cases of harassment by an officer. You call also dial 911 (or the emergency number for your state or country) if you think it’s a matter of emergency. Better yet, visit the website of your local police department and lodge your complaints using the section meant for police complaints. Whichever option you choose, follow the right procedures so that your complaint would be properly handled.
But there is a general view that police officers have a “code of silence” that prevents them from seeing and questioning each other’s act of misconduct. Even though the police has called this a myth and has tried to debunk it several times, a survey conducted in 2005 revealed that this really exists. So, don’t be surprised if the same officer continues to harass you even after you have reported him.
3. Establish and document your evidences
If a police officer is still harassing you even after you have lodged a complaint, here’s what you should do:
Wait patiently for the next time he harasses you, and try to make some convincing evidence against him. You can always have someone with you whenever you anticipate such misconduct so that the person can be a witness. You can also have a small recording device in your pocket to capture the officer’s words.
After gathering your evidences, try to replicate them. That is, you should produce many copies of your evidences. This is necessary because the police are notorious for destroying evidences kept against them. Also, document the details of the harassment scenario, such as the date, time, and venue.
4. Report the second time
So that you will be double sure that the police is deliberately sweeping your complaint under the floor, you can complain a second time and see if there will be any positive changes. This time, show them your evidences. Remember to produce many copies of your evidences before turning them in.
5. File a lawsuit
If you think your complaints have yielded no results, then contact a qualified lawyer. Start by asking if there are further options that you can adopt in order to seek redress. If there are no other options, then pressing formal charges should be your next step.
On a final note, always keep in mind that the police are not immune to the law, and they must abide by both the laws that bind their profession and those that protect civilians. You should always stand up to hold them accountable whenever they exceed their boundaries by harassing or abusing you.